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Byron Shire
September 18, 2021

Ballina will be first to get ‘smart’ drum lines

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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

Beaches on the north coast will have hi-tech drum lines installed off the coast this summer, which hooks and tags sharks before releasing them further out to sea.

Primary industries minister Niall Blair will announce the $16 million shark management strategy in Coffs Harbour today (Wednesday November 25).

Ballina will be the first beach in the state to get the technology, which is used in the shark-infested waters off Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean.

But the Humane Society International (HSI) has ‘expressed regret’ at the government’s announcement.

While congratulating the government on its plans for non-lethal technology such as aerial patrols and lifeguard towers in order to detect sharks as they have no ill effect on our marine life, HSI says it ‘cannot support the installation of drum lines which are known to cause mortality of marine animals’.

GPS buoys alert contractors within minutes of a shark being hooked, so it can then be tagged and moved out to sea away from surfers.

The approach was ‘based on science, not emotion’, Premier Mike Baird told News Limited.

Mr Blair will also announce the first field test of shark-tracking drones will begin today at Coffs Harbour.

Unnecessary and lethal

But HSI marine scientist Jessica Morris said that smart drum lines are ‘an unnecessary and lethal addition to the government’s plans for shark management in NSW’.

“The plan to install these drum lines at places such as Coffs Harbour and Ballina with plans to erect more within NSW later, could result in the deaths of many non-target species such as hammerhead and grey nurse sharks, both of which are protected in NSW,’ Ms Morris said.

‘The NSW marine environment has a diverse range of species, which are not only important for the functioning of ecosystems but are relied upon by eco-tourism in areas such as Ballina and Coffs Harbour. Smart drum lines will be a threat to this.’

Ms Morris said that in areas including WA, Reunion Islands, and Queensland where these devices are in use they’re ‘not effective in catching white sharks but have a serious impact on our marine ecosystems. Drum lines catch more marine turtles than white sharks in Queensland and marine mammals such as dolphins are also captured.’

‘We are concerned at the lack of care regarding the impact of these drum lines on our marine wildlife. The reality is that this trial should have an Environmental Impact Assessment and be referred to the commonwealth before any work is undertaken. We would also like to see in writing the NSW Government’s proposal for the trial including the application of trigger limits to ensure that any mortality of a species such as the critically endangered grey nurse shark results in the termination of the drum lines,’ Ms Morris said.

Opposition primary industries spokesman Mick Veitch said the government needed to provide more information about the technology and how the trial would work.

‘The reality is how [the drum lines] are going to work is unclear,’ Mr Veitch said.

– with AAP


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  1. how exactly do these drum lines work ?
    how are you going to hook them ?
    i am all for shark deterrents, but if bait is used to attract sharks isn’t that defeating the purpose of deterrent ?

  2. What a waste of 16 million dollars. Road deaths suicide and so many other issues pose much more relevant statistically life threatening numbers and we are wasting it on this?
    Also as far as knee jerk reactions from people suddenly caring about the sharks
    40 to 50 million sharks are killed annually as bi catch through legal fishing so that you can eat your 3 course seafood banquets and therefore any protests you are making are superfluous and totally misguided and groundless. http://www.sharksavers.org/files/8613/3185/9956/Shark_Bycatch_FACT_SHEET_Shark_Savers.pdf

  3. Hmmm. is this the drum line technology mentioned above?

    ‘A drumline is usually defined as an aquatic device consisting of an anchored buoy (originally a drum) from which a single baited hook is suspended. But the new drumlines in Reunion Island are different and regarded as ‘smart’ or ‘intelligent’, because they are additionally equipped with GPS, underwater cameras and sensors that raise an alert signal if a shark gets hooked. In case of a catch, the obtained information will be sent directly to the coordinator who will be able to intervene within 2 hours. The aim of this system is to reduce unnecessary shark mortality, because harmless species or bull and tiger sharks under 1.5 metres in length should be tagged and released. Only larger specimens of these two potentially dangerous shark species may be killed and taken for Reunion’s Ciguatera Program.’
    ‘Since late January 2014, a total of 29 large sharks have been killed, consisting of 11 bull sharks and 18 tiger sharks which were between 2,10 and 4,00 metres long ( see table and map below ).
    The fishing gears used for the shark mitigation measures are a number of drumlines and bottom-longlines which are baited with fish and then deployed mainly in the waters off the northwestern commune of Saint-Paul.
    So, the fishing efforts are predominantly concentrated along a ca. 20 km stretch of coastline.
    The targeted species are large bull sharks (Carcharhinus leucas) and tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier).
    Smaller specimens of these two species or other shark species are released alive after being tagged if possible’.


  4. Sounds like common sense for a change in handling sharks.

    The ‘Humane Society’ should drop the ‘e’ from its title and consider which species is really worth preserving, homo sapiens or a bunch of insensate sea monsters of which there are far too many already.

  5. Sorry Jon but seems you may have your species mixed, I don’t see an overpopulation of sea creatures wreaking havoc on the biosphere, that is the realm of anthropocentric humans doing that.


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