Backlash Over Shark Nets Decision

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The state government is facing a backlash over its decision to reinstall shark nets on the North Coast.

NSW DPI announced on Friday that the trial would resume despite their own admission that just nine of the 275 animals caught in the nets last season were actually dangerous sharks: three Whites, three Tigers and three Bull sharks.

The decision has angered The Greens, and the Humane Society International, who have said the decision flies in the face of science.

Ballina MP Tamara Smith said the shark net trial on the North Coast was a demonstrated failure and should not be repeated.

‘There is no scientific evidence and decreasing community support for putting shark nets back in the water this Summer,’ she said.

‘We all want to ensure people are as safe as possible when enjoying the beach and ocean while minimising the toll on marine life. Shark nets don’t help achieve that balance. The Greens would prefer to see money wasted on the nets used instead on drone and human shark spotting patrols in order to offer better warning and protection to swimmers and surfers.

‘The NSW Government has continued to say they’ll take an evidence-based approach to shark management so why push ahead with more nets when they have failed to work?” Ms Smith said.

Greens Marine Environment spokesperson Justin Field said the nets may make ocean goers feel better but the evidence showed they were not effective against target sharks and don’t make swimmers or surfers significantly safer.

‘The Minister can already act confidently from the results of the previous trial which made a compelling case for the Government to remove shark nets permanently from North Coast beaches.

‘We have already had an expansion of the SMART drumlines off the North Coast and there are other non-lethal technologies available, including expanding community shark observer programs.

‘Minister Niall Blair can now have the confidence to move beyond the ‘panic’ and keep shark nets out of the water.’

Ballina councillor Keith Williams said plans for a second shark-net trial defied logic.

He said only 3 per cent of the 275 animals caught during the original six-month trial were target sharks, while during the same period four dolphins and 14 turtles died in the nets.

Councillor Williams, who is also Vice President of Australian Seabird Rescue, said hanging five nets along a 50-kilometre stretch of coast would only create a false sense of security.

“They’re 150-metres long, sit below the surface of the water, the sharks can go above them, below them, around them,” he said.

“They give people the impression that there’s a barrier there and it’s safer.

“What we are really doing is killing large amounts of endangered wildlife simply to make people feel safer.”

Humane Society

Humane Society International Head of Campaigns Nicola Beynon said the state government’s decision showed it was letting the Daily Telegraph dictate public policy decisions.

Last season’s shark net “trial” on the North Coast caught 9 target sharks making up only 3 per cent of the total catch, with the remaining 97 per cent comprising harmless marine animals, including a critically endangered grey nurse shark killed, four dolphins killed and the ensnaring of 11 threatened turtles.

Whereas, SMART drumlines caught 36 target sharks comprising 92 per cent of the catch and harmless marine wildlife was largely spared.

‘Humane Society International has reservations about the SMART drumlines but clearly they better meet the Government’s objectives with far less impact on non-target marine life. It makes no sense for the Government to repeat another trial of the ecologically destructive nets,’ Ms Beynon said.

The NSW DPI also released figures that only 33 per cent of locals from Ballina and Lennox Head had a positive view of the trial in telephone surveys, and only 8 per cent of people living outside the area viewed the trial as positive, after it wrapped up earlier this year.

She said far greater support was expressed for non-lethal bather protection measures.

‘The NSW government has shunned both science and public opinion and cowed to shock jock and tabloid media in deciding on another shark net season.

‘This just goes to show how out of touch it is with the expectations of NSW residents who are rightly calling for non-lethal alternatives to bather protection.’

The survey also found that 87 per cent of respondents supported listening stations and drones for shark detection surveillance.

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