Ballina’s shark drum-lines plan spark wave of concern

So-called 'smart' drum lines are to be deployed on the north coast this summer, as a shark deterrent, with Ballina the first beach to receive them. Photo YouTube

So-called ‘smart’ drum lines are to be deployed on the north coast this summer, as a shark deterrent, with Ballina the first beach to receive them. Photo YouTube

Luis Feliu

Ballina MP Tamara Smith has vowed to fight for the removal of ‘smart’ shark drum lines, set to be trialled on the north coast this summer, if they kill marine life such as turtles and dolphins.

The Greens MP has joined a chorus of concern by conservation groups that the drum lines have not been proven to be effective.

Primary industries minister Niall Blair on Wednesday announced the technology as part of a $16 million shark management strategy and Ballina will be the first beach in the state to get the drum lines.

The state government’s move comes in response to a series of shark attacks off Ballina area beaches this year, two of which were fatal.

Ms Smith has urged a ‘watch and see’ approach, saying she ‘will be holding premier Mike Baird and the primary industries minister to their word, that the trial will be ‘transparent and guided by science’.

This morning, the MP will attend a public hearing in Ballina of the NSW Committee on Investment, Industry and Regional Development’s Parliamentary Inquiry hearing on the Management of Sharks in NSW.

Ms Smith, who is the NSW Greens spokesperson for marine environment and fisheries, said the government’s plan ’is not considered the final solution to shark management on our beaches, it’s simply a trial’.

‘This technology has only been committed for testing and if it doesn’t work for our ocean users and threatens our marine life I will be calling for their immediate removal,’ she said.

‘Bi-catch and fatalities of our marine life will be unacceptable.

‘I will personally be seeking to join monitoring crews on boats throughout this trial period.

‘The minister has assured me that DPI staff will be rostered to enable a 24-hour call out response, in order to tag and release marine life who meet with the technology.

‘I will also be making sure Byron Bay beaches are adequately supported as part of the trials, through measures that do not interfere with the health of Cape Byron Marine Park.

Ballina MP Tamara Smith presents her inaugural speech to the NSW Parliament on May 12, 2015. Photo: Max Phillips

Ballina MP Tamara Smith has vowed to fight to remove shark drum lines if they kill marine animals. Photo: Max Phillips

Drum lines not tested

Meanwhile, Sea Shepherd Australia says it was disappointed the NSW government has ignored advice from a independent review into non-lethal options to mitigate shark encounters in the state.

The group says it’s also disappointed the smart drum lines would not be subjected to an environmental impact assessment.

Sea Shepherd Australia’s national shark campaign coordinator Natalie Banks says a scientific review outlined concerns with smart drum lines, which found that they had not been independently assessed in terms of their effectiveness to catch white, tiger or bull sharks.

‘Smart drum lines which have been used in Le Reunion, France have not been independently tested regarding their effectiveness or their impacts on a range of marine life within Australian waters,’ Ms Banks said.

‘Additionally, the review highlighted concerns of how to manage larger sharks and whether these sharks will need to be killed or towed out to sea.

‘With so many people concerned about the use of drum lines in Western Australia, prior to the implementation of them in January 2014, Sea Shepherd is surprised that the NSW government has gone down this avenue.

‘It appears to me that we continue to repeat the same mistakes from the past in terms of shark management in Australia, instead of looking to programs that have scientifically proven to work in other jurisdictions,’ Ms Banks said.

‘Shark Spotters which has been in place within Cape Town, South Africa for nearly eleven years, has been scientifically proven to work, after spotting over 1,700 sharks which are mainly White Sharks, and having only one fatality during a low-visibility day.

‘Shark Spotters was also the only program that the scientific review by Cardno recommended as a initiative that could be implemented immediately.

‘Why the NSW government has ignored a review that they commissioned, is beyond me,’ Ms Banks said.

Marine animals killed

And the NSW Nature Conservation Council (NCC) says it will closely scrutinise the performance of the trial to ensure it minimizes harm to threatened marine species and meets its public safety objectives.

NCC marine campaigner Justin Field said the government’s plans to increase surveillance were welcome but ‘we have concerns about the potential environmental impact of “smart” drum-lines to be trialled near Ballina, a technology that will provide little if any added bather protection’.

‘Drum-lines, even “smart” drum-lines, can injure and kill sharks, including endangered and non-threatening species, as well as dolphins, whales, and turtles. There is nothing “smart” about killing marine life,’ Mr Field said.

‘We also know drum-lines and shark nets can give ocean users a false sense of security because they don’t prevent bites, which in any case are very rare events.

‘We are waiting for more information on the protocols around the proposed drum-line trial, but the community has consistently said it doesn’t support killing sharks.’

Mr Field said there were still many unanswered questions around the government’s trial, including:
•    where the drum lines will be placed
•    how long it would take crews to respond to hooking events
•    protocols for handling and releasing hooked animals
•    how the trial’s effectiveness will be evaluated

‘We’re asking for a commitment from the premier and primary idustries minister that the lines be immediately withdrawn and the program reviewed if deaths of marine animals occur,’ Mr Field said.

‘There were other non-lethal technologies considered as part of the review of shark deterrent technologies that are preferable, including South Africa’s successful ‘shark spotters’ program, which engages the community in the solution.

“We recognise and support the government’s decision to not expand shark netting, which is damaging to marine life and does not enhance bather protection.

‘We also support the expanded surveillance program, but that needs to be matched with a program to educate and inform ocean users of the presence of shark activities. This is where the ‘shark spotters’ program can also be valuable.’

The public hearing of the parliamentary inquiry today will be held at the Ballina Surf Club from 10.15am. Government, tourism and business, shark experts and surf lifesaving representatives will address the committee.

5 responses to “Ballina’s shark drum-lines plan spark wave of concern”

  1. glen folkard says:

    The Queen of the Anti-Humans has spoken. Great…That is it. Its ‘their’ world right? Forget us Survivors and the Victims families pretty fast eh SS. Disgraceful opposition this is, and history will show the Greens and SS Neglect and Complicity in many deaths on Australia’s coastlines this last 10 years.

    NO Risk Assessment was EVER done when ‘they’ protected that one species 18 years ago.

  2. Serge Killingbeck says:

    The most important thing is to ensure there is full and complete transparency in the retrieval, tagging and relocation process. The cameras have to rolling for every pick up from the point the fish is winched up to the point of actual film of it swimming away, nothing less. Also, given the fishing will begin during the summer, there has to be full reporting for every time the boat cannot get out over the bar, pick up the fish and take it offshore. All this information should be made available as soon as it happens on the same web site that can be used to track those sharks that survive the process to swim away. And we’ll know if the information is being doctored because it will turn up zero fatalities in the caught marine life and/or describe how the boat got out within two hours on every occasion, never seen a summer storm season that would make that true.

  3. geoffrey leach says:

    A Three Month Use of Drum Lines in WA Resulted in the Death (apart from sharks) of One Stingray

    In WA, drum lines were used for 3 months in 2014. The catch statistics show that 162 tiger sharks were caught of which those over 3 metres were destroyed and those under 3 metres released.
    The incidental catch – which is of particular concern to many of your readers – included 1 blowfish, 1 dusty whaler, 7 stingrays, 1 blacktip shark and 1 bull shark all of which were released alive except for 1 stingray.
    There were also 4 mako sharks which were found dead.

  4. Fiona Folan says:

    Go Tamara… BSC Council report for meeting 26/11 notes the condition of bar may mean boats cannot respond to a ‘Smart’ drum line being taken in a timely manner, resulting in the death of whatever animal has taken the bait.

  5. Greg Williams says:

    A few observations:

    MP Smith “will personally be seeking to join monitoring crews on boats throughout this trial period”.
    Fantastic photo opportunities there, eh, Tamara? Surely monitoring crews should be able to get on with their job, unimpeded by, with respect, grandstanding politicians?
    As a matter of interest, did you move condolence motions in Parliament for the multiple shark attack victims around Ballina this year? . . . . . . Any of them at all?

    And “Sea Shepherd Australia’s national shark campaign coordinator Natalie Banks says a scientific review outlined concerns with smart drum lines, which found that they had not been independently assessed in terms of their effectiveness to catch white, tiger or bull sharks.”
    Well surely the forthcoming trial will provide this assessment?
    For crying out loud, how can something of this nature be assessed without such a proposed trial?

    And “Shark Spotters which has been in place within Cape Town, South Africa for nearly eleven years, has been scientifically proven to work.”
    From the Sharkspotters web site:
    “Shark Spotters are positioned at strategic points along the Cape Peninsula, primarily along the False Bay coastline. A spotter is placed on the MOUNTAIN (my emphasis) with polarised sunglasses and binoculars . . . . . ”
    Not being intimately familiar with the Ballina area. I stand to be corrected, but, from memory “mountains” are pretty much in short supply on the immediate Ballina coastline.
    For a Shark Spotters program such as the ones run around Cape Town, a very high vantage point is obviously a necessity. Are there any in the immediate vicinity of this year’s shark attacks around Ballina?

    Whilst believing an effort should be made to limit negative impact on the marine population in our Region during any exercise to resolve the current shark issue, we need to ask ourselves why, for instance, is the Gold Coast (only 80Kms away) not experiencing Ballina’s current shark problems.

    And finally, “calling a spade, a spade”, if it is a choice between a shark or me, whilst an obviously one-eyed opinion, I’ll opt for me, every single time.

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