Shark Nets Threaten Dolphins and Whales

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The Mayor of Byron Shire says he will oppose any move to install shark nets off the shire’s beaches.

The New South Wales Government last week announced it would seek Commonwealth approval for a six-month meshing trial on the far North Coast.

The move came in response to a recent spate of shark attacks in the area.

Most have been in the neighbouring Ballina Shire, but a swimmer was fatally attacked by a great white at Byron’s Clarks Beach in 2014.

But Mayor Simon Richardson said the risk posed by sharks would not justify the damage done by nets to the marine ecosystem.

“It would be a categorical no from me and I think the wider community,” he said.

“We’ve had about three deaths in Byron Shire waters in over 100 years.

“You have more risk dying in a car getting to the beach than being on the beach and in the water itself.

“How much of the spirit of this community are we prepared to lose in the name of tourism?”

Cr Richardson said the economy and jobs were crucial, but he did not think people who came to Byron were the “type of visitors who wish to know that by coming they’re ensuring the death of hundreds of marine creatures that we share the ocean with”.

MP Says Balance Must be Found

State Member for Clarence, Chris Gulaptis would like to see the nets rolled out across the region.

The Nationals MP said it was important to find a balance between marine by-catch and public safety.

“If the by-catch is satisfactory, it’s a low proportion and it meets community expectations, then I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t roll them out right along the North Coast,” he said.

“This would] provide the same protection that the people have between Wollongong and Newcastle.

“You know our lives are just as important as lives on the South Coast.”

No Safe Place to Install Nets, Researcher Says

Liz Hawkins, from The Dolphin Project, said installing a net at Lighthouse Beach, where most of the attacks had occurred, would put local marine mammals at risk.

“We have a local group or community of bottlenose dolphins that call that particular spot home,” Dr Hawkins said.

“Part of their core habitat is actually Lighthouse Beach and the entrance to the Richmond River.”

Dr Hawkins said there were more than 60 dolphins that lived there year round.

“Those dolphins will use the Richmond River estuary daily, they’ll use Lighthouse Beach, the Sharpes Beach area daily, and they may move as far north as Lennox Head for feeding purposes,” she said.

“But almost every day of the year they will be found in that relatively small site around the Richmond river mouth and Lighthouse Beach.”

‘Installation of shark mesh nets will also pose a considerable threat to at least nine other species of whales and dolphins that are either temporarily resident or migratory along the North Coast.

‘These include endangered southern right whales, vulnerable Australian humpback dolphins, common dolphins, humpback whales and Bryde’s whales. These species are considered at high risk of becoming entangled and drowning in any shark mesh nets installed at north coast beaches.

‘There is really nowhere along the North Coast that shark nets could be installed where the risk of whale and dolphin entanglement would be low. There’s also a high likelihood that entanglement will result in the mortality of many individuals from these ecologically and culturally-significant species.’

Source: ABC News

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