Mayors from Ballina, Byron and Tweed will meet with shark experts on 18 March to devise a strategy to protect north coast beach users from attacks.
Ballina’s mayor David Wright told Echonetdaily that the group, noNSWsharkcull, had approached him asking for the meeting to discuss non-lethal deterrent strategies.
The meeting comes after 41-year-old Tadashi Nakahara was killed by a Great White shark that tore his legs off at Shelly Beach, near Ballina, earlier this month.
It was Australia’s fourth fatal shark attack in five months, and the second in waters around Ballina.
Since 1905, there have been 33 attacks and seven fatalities in Ballina waters.
The day before Tadashi was killed, another surfer was bitten by a bull shark while surfing at Seven Mile Beach near Lennox Head.
Cr Wright said the young surfers who tried to save Tadashi had shown incredible bravery.
‘The shark was still in water and chasing one of them while they were trying to save Tadashi,’ Cr Wright said.
He later told fellow councilors that the eight surfers who took part in the rescue would be recommended for a state award to recognize their actions.
‘We’ll be doing something about that later on but for now our concern is with their welfare,’ he said.
‘Only two of the eight have been back in the water since the attack.
‘The surf club has offered to use a jet ski or rubber ducky to take them out and get them back in the water and I think they’ll take that up.
Cr Wright said the council was also encouraging the young surfers to take advantage of a 10-visit counseling plan.
‘I’m still personally worried that these young people might think it’s wrong to get specialist advice but they need it, and they need to get back in the water because they’ve all been surfing for a long time,’ he said.
Cr Wright said there had been no suggestion that netting or culling should be used to ward off attacks.
‘We are looking at other deterrents and are willing to try things like sonic wrist bands– willing to try things like wrist bands which put out a sonic boom which is like ‘”hitting the shark in the nose”,’
‘Surfboard-makers are also looking at putting these things on boards but as surfers often have a few boards it could be quite expensive.
‘When the marine rescue tower is in place we could use that as a look-out for Lighthouse Beach and South Ballina, and there’s been a suggestion to use Pat Morton Hill as a look-out when the water temperature changes.
Other measures could include a beach warning system, with sirens used to warn people when a shark had been spotted, more beach patrols, and boats used to patrol out the back of surfers.
He said large warning signs had been used to inform beach goers that the beaches were closed following the attacks, although some of the signs had already been stolen.
‘I think those are the sort of protocols we’ll be looking at,’ he said.
‘There’s been no thought of netting. We have 15 kilometres of beaches and netting traps a lot of other things like dolphins,’ he said.
‘Not one person has mentioned to me about trying to hurt the sharks. ‘
Cr Wright said the recent attacks had attracted widespread media attention.
‘I’ve done 53 interviews (since the attacks) on television, radio … right around the world,’ he said.
Tadashi’s memorial service was also well attended.
‘That memorial service on Shelly Beach for Tadashi was one of the most moving I’ve seen and to have people turn up from places like Port Macquarie and the Gold Coast who never even knew him, just for respect for a fellow surfer, I thought that was incredible,’ he said.
Cr Wright said the council was considering erecting a memorial to Tadashi, which was likely to be a bench seat with his name on it.
In response to the attacks in Ballina shire, the spokesperson for NoNSWsharkcull, Sharnie Connell, called on the NSW Premier Mike Baird, if re-elected, to honour his election promise to commence trails of non-lethal shark mitigation programs all along the NSW coast as soon as possible.
‘There is no scientific evidence that shark nets or drum lines actually keep people safe,’ Ms Connell said.
‘On the contrary drum lines attract sharks to popular beaches where people are swimming and shark nets have been responsible for killing two young people who became entangled and drowned in them, one in NSW and one in QLD.
‘It is timely that the NSW fisheries department have released an app based education program to educate ocean users of the potential risks associated with shark interaction and what steps they can take to reduce their personal risk.
‘We ask that this program be extended with multilingual information displayed permanently at beaches throughout NSW.’