Beaches on the north coast will have hi-tech drum lines installed off the coast this summer, which hooks and tags sharks before releasing them further out to sea.
Primary industries minister Niall Blair will announce the $16 million shark management strategy in Coffs Harbour today (Wednesday November 25).
Ballina will be the first beach in the state to get the technology, which is used in the shark-infested waters off Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean.
But the Humane Society International (HSI) has ‘expressed regret’ at the government’s announcement.
While congratulating the government on its plans for non-lethal technology such as aerial patrols and lifeguard towers in order to detect sharks as they have no ill effect on our marine life, HSI says it ‘cannot support the installation of drum lines which are known to cause mortality of marine animals’.
GPS buoys alert contractors within minutes of a shark being hooked, so it can then be tagged and moved out to sea away from surfers.
The approach was ‘based on science, not emotion’, Premier Mike Baird told News Limited.
Mr Blair will also announce the first field test of shark-tracking drones will begin today at Coffs Harbour.
Unnecessary and lethal
But HSI marine scientist Jessica Morris said that smart drum lines are ‘an unnecessary and lethal addition to the government’s plans for shark management in NSW’.
“The plan to install these drum lines at places such as Coffs Harbour and Ballina with plans to erect more within NSW later, could result in the deaths of many non-target species such as hammerhead and grey nurse sharks, both of which are protected in NSW,’ Ms Morris said.
‘The NSW marine environment has a diverse range of species, which are not only important for the functioning of ecosystems but are relied upon by eco-tourism in areas such as Ballina and Coffs Harbour. Smart drum lines will be a threat to this.’
Ms Morris said that in areas including WA, Reunion Islands, and Queensland where these devices are in use they’re ‘not effective in catching white sharks but have a serious impact on our marine ecosystems. Drum lines catch more marine turtles than white sharks in Queensland and marine mammals such as dolphins are also captured.’
‘We are concerned at the lack of care regarding the impact of these drum lines on our marine wildlife. The reality is that this trial should have an Environmental Impact Assessment and be referred to the commonwealth before any work is undertaken. We would also like to see in writing the NSW Government’s proposal for the trial including the application of trigger limits to ensure that any mortality of a species such as the critically endangered grey nurse shark results in the termination of the drum lines,’ Ms Morris said.
Opposition primary industries spokesman Mick Veitch said the government needed to provide more information about the technology and how the trial would work.
‘The reality is how [the drum lines] are going to work is unclear,’ Mr Veitch said.
– with AAP