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Byron Shire
March 2, 2021

NSW Govt announces $16m to combat shark attacks

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Great white shark with satellite research tag attached to base of dorsal fin. (Wikipedia)
Great white shark with satellite research tag attached to base of dorsal fin. (Wikipedia)

Ballina’s mayor David Wright and Greens MP Tamara Smith have welcomed a $16 million strategy to prevent shark attacks along the New South Wales coastline.

The government has announced that $7.7 million would be spent on trials of new technologies and aerial and coastal surveillance, including up to $3.5 million for aerial helicopter surveillance to provide early warning to bathers and assist shark tagging operations.

The government will also invest in 20, 4G listening stations. Ten stations will be positioned between Tweed Heads and Forster, with the rest to be positioned at known shark attack locations.

Another $7 million will be set aside for additional research into how to keep our beaches safe from sharks in their natural environment, and the expansion of the shark tagging program currently underway on the state’s North Coast.

The data from the tagging program will eventually be made available to provide details of tagged shark locations via the SharkSmart app in real time. So far more than a dozen sharks have been tagged in north coast waters.

These measures will be complemented by six barrier net trials and five ‘clever buoy’ in-water sonar technology trials. The North Coast has been identified as a priority trial site for two barrier nets.

A further $1.3 million will be set aside to educate the community to be shark smart and build on the popular SharkSmart mobile app.

The new VR4G offshore listening devices will be installed at Evans Head, Byron Bay, Lennox Head and Ballina and the barrier nets are expected to be deployed at Ballina or Lennox Head.

Cr Wright said the funding for aerial patrols would enable surveillance from now until Easter and the council was still hoping for extra funding for the jet boat services it sends out when a shark is spotted.

Just last week, the Ballina council supported a motion to introduce roving jet ski patrols during the summer months to help improve communications between helicopters, lifeguards and beach users.

Ballina  MP Tamara Smith also welcomed the government’s announcement.

‘The Government has recognised that killing sharks with more nets is not the answer. The focus on surveillance, education, research and trials of non-lethal deterrents is the right one and I’m glad to see the North Coast will be the focus of some of the technology trials,’ Ms Smith said.


‘The Government’s approach recognises the need to protect our marine life, including sharks, but to ensure the public have the best information to reduce the risk of shark encounters.

‘No technology can completely eliminate the risk of a shark bite, but this response will make a significant difference while recognising the important role of sharks in a healthy marine environment.

‘In the face of hysterical reporting from some media outlets, the community has made clear its opposition to killing sharks. The government has listened to the community in developing this response and that is to be commended.

‘My hope is that as these new technologies mature the government starts to phase out the existing netting program in NSW which continues to kill dozens of sharks, dolphins, turtles and stingrays each year.

‘I am concerned about reports that ‘smart’ drum-line technology may be considered in the trials. ‘Smart’ drum-lines can’t be considered a non-lethal technology and I will be seeking a clarification from the Minister on this issue.

‘I look forward to continuing to work with the Ballina Shark Mitigation Working Group to ensure the roll out of trials and other programs on the North Coast deliver the best outcomes for the protection of our marine life and the safety of the public in my electorate.’


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  1. Money better spent on bullets..too many Humans dead and maimed now by Great Whites. This is all way too late. The GW’s proliferation could be seen as early as 2004′ in Australia. The attack rate has spiralled since ‘protection’ in 1997′

    Too little too late..for the dead.

  2. The state government has made an effort to address the very real concerns of surfers and bathers on the north coast with respect to human-shark ‘interactions’ (presumably including ‘attacks’) and that is welcome.
    However there are several logical and policy inconsistencies in the proposals.
    The first of these is a series of official reports which only guessed at numbers of great whites based on numbers caught in netting and caught in commercial and recreational fishing. This informed guesswork was then used as the basis for putting the species on the ‘vulnerable’ list, not the ‘endangered’ list, of the Federal legislation. The fact is there is no hard evidence of numbers of great whites as the scientists themselves admitted. Consecutive studies of numbers off the California coast varied between 150 and over 2000.
    Readers may be interested in three points/quotes from the Federal Department of the Environment in its Species Profile and Threats Database.
    “Trends in population are difficult to establish as there are no reliable metrics with which to compare changes in population status over time (DEWHA 2009).
    High levels of inter-annual variability seen in Great White Shark numbers may be a reflection of changes in distribution over years, rather than trends in total population numbers (Bruce 2008).
    Changes in historical game-fishing records may reflect changes in fishing behaviours rather than total numbers of Great White Sharks (DEWHA 2009).”
    Part of the government strategy is understandably to learn more of numbers and habits i.e. to help us with detection. The other half of the strategy is to identify effective and practical proposals for deterrence.
    The recent meeting in Lennox on the issue, explained that the recent Sydney conference could come up with no strategy to replace netting.
    At the same time they accepted that netting had been highly effective off Sydney beaches for for more than 70 years and changes to mesh size have led to very significant reductions in the number of sharks and other species caught and killed. But apparently it is not an up-to-date technology although there is no substitute at this stage!
    I am also unclear what numbers are needed to take great whites off the vulnerable list? or is it a case of once on the list, it is there for eternity?
    We cull kangaroos and emus in this country but are reluctant to address the option of a limited cull of a known killer swimming close to our beaches while lacking hard science to support its protection. Nor can we use the only proven long term deterrent – netting.
    i dont ‘get it’.

  3. Delighted to hear that some investment is being put into the North Coast (it could indeed be globally applicable leading edge best practice system). I’m a little confused though – ABC24 is reporting that funds will cover deployment of drone surveillance (as developed at Byron Bay I assumed) but your article identifies chopper watch only. Please don’t tell me funds for this have been pushed across to jet ski’s (surely jet boats would be safer & the Life Saving Clubs would benefit more from this type of equipment, be it upgrade or increased boat stock). Sorry to nit-pick (I defer to the experts – but think independently to when in possession of the facts).


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