The state government has ruled out a cull of north coast sharks, such as was recently called for by members of the local surfing community, but they have promised Ballina Shire Council additional resources to tackle the issue.
Ballina mayor David Wright has confirmed that, as a response to increased shark activity and community concerns, the department of primary industries will dedicate extra resources to Ballina to look at why the shark attacks are happening at such a rate and to develop strategies to avoid them.
The campaign will cost the government $250,000 and provide on-water surveillance as well as tracking and tagging sharks in the area, but not ongoing aerial surveillance.
Mayor Wright told Echonetdaily that two scientists would be arriving on Monday and more later on in the week, as they become available.
‘They’ll be bringing their boat, The Swan, up from Coffs Harbour,’ he said.
‘They will be going up in a helicopter, talking to Surf Life Saving, the police and council, maybe tagging the sharks, running a communication program and giving away packages to people about their research on sharks.
He said the program would not include ongoing shark spotting ‘at the moment’.
‘Honestly, this is what I’ve been trying to get for weeks and weeks is for somebody to come up and find out what our problem is and actually deal with it.
‘What the director-general told me yesterday is that we can virtually ask for anything but at the moment we just want to find out why they’re coming, are they the same ones and what we can do about it.’
‘He was talking about maybe conducting some trials here as well,’ Cr Wright said.
Primary industries minister Niall Blair told local media it was important to ensure the surf was safe.
‘What this does is provide the community with a measured, scientific-based approach to protect those communities and to allow all of us to do what we love doing – and that’s going to the beach,’ he told ABC radio this morning.
MP calls for sumit
Ballina MP Tamara Smith has welcomed the $250,000 commitment.
Ms Smith said the community had been calling for support and the funds would ‘help us to learn more about local shark behaviour and ensure the public has the best information to help reduce the risk of future shark incidents.’
‘I have sought a briefing from the government on the details of the proposal and would encourage the minister to actively engage with the local Shark Mitigation Advisory Group to implement this program,’ Ms Smith said.
‘The community needs to be part of this process so we can help shape the program with local knowledge,’ she added.
‘It is important to note there is political consensus that culling sharks is not the answer and that culling and shark nets are not part of this program. Experience shows that research, surveillance and public education is the best way to keep people safe and ensure we preserve healthy and biodiverse oceans.
‘I am still calling on the government to hold some of the proposed trials of non-lethal deterrent technologies on Ballina beaches and am calling for the announced Shark Summit to be held on the north coast,’ Ms Smith said.