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.’