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Byron Shire
March 6, 2021

Call to rule out north coast shark netting

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A 10-metre humpback whale tangled in a shark net off Main Beach on the Gold Coast. (AAP)
A 10-metre humpback whale tangled in a shark net off Main Beach on the Gold Coast. (AAP)

The NSW Government is being urged to rule out expanding its shark-netting program following recent attacks at Ballina and Lennox Head.

Opponents say netting traps animals such as whales and dolphins, and other non-target species.

Greens MP for Ballina Tamara Smith has joined Ballina mayor David Wright, and Ballina councillor Keith Williams in calling for the government to pursue other measures other than netting.

Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis raised the idea of expanding the netting program, which is in place at 51 beaches between Wollongong and Newcastle.

Cr Wright told Echonetdaily that it was impractical to net the 15 kilometres of beaches within Ballina shire, and instead is investigating the possibility of tagging sharks instead.

Ballina MP Tamara Smith, a regular swimmer at Byron Bay, has also spoken out against netting.

‘Sharks are a natural part of a healthy ocean and people understand the risk we take when we go into their territory,’ Ms Smith said.

‘I want people to be able to safely enjoy the water but shark nets and killing sharks is not the answer.’

Ms Smith pointed out that 79 per cent of the animals caught in shark netting last year were threatened species or non-target species.

They included a humpback whale, dolphins, turtles, rays and harmless sharks like the endangered Grey Nurse.

‘In Sydney, the move is away from shark nets and the Premier (Mike Baird) last year flagged his intention to fund a trial of non-lethal deterrents,’ she said.

‘Western Australia is also conducting research into different deterrence technologies after the community backlash to its shark cull program.

‘As an ocean swimmer who swims between the Pass and Byron Beach most days, I am conscious of the risks in the water, but I also recognise that our healthy oceans and marine life, and the Cape Byron Marine Park, is what makes this part of the world such a beautiful place to live.

‘We are a community of ocean lovers and I want to see people kept safe, but shark netting is not the answer.

“We should be fast-tracking research and trials and I’ll be writing to the Premier to see what steps are being made to implement the trial program.

‘In the meantime we need to continue public education about the importance of sharks to healthy marine ecosystems and on avoidance strategies to limit personal risks.’

Ballina councillor Keith Williams, who is heavily involved in Australian Seabird Rescue, told ABC radio that experience on the Gold Coast showed netting beaches had unintended consequences.

‘We’ve had at least two or three incidents a year disentangling whales from those nets so we know it happens fairly regularly,’ he said.

‘That would be a major concern for us given how close whales come to our shore here and that’s something I think that a lot of us really love.’

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