Installation of the controversial ‘eco’ shark barrier at Ballina’s Lighthouse Beach has stalled after fears that divers installing the 350kg concrete ‘planks’ that anchor it to the ocean floor could be endangered by rough conditions.
The Australian reported this morning that the $500,000 project had to be halted after tons of sand were deposited in the wave zone during recent storms, reducing the depth from seven to just three metres and making the wave action much stronger.
But primary industries minister Niall Blair said the barriers will still be introduced, although he could not nominate a time frame.
‘Over the last few days divers from the Eco Shark Barrier team have made attempts to begin installation of the state’s first shark barrier at Lighthouse Beach, Mr Blair told the paper.
‘Recent storms and large waves have deposited huge amounts of sand in the wave zone, making it too dangerous for the divers to safely install the barrier.
‘The team from Eco Shark Barrier will … begin installation of the barrier at the earliest and safest opportunity,’ he said.
The barrier concept has not been universally popular with surfers, who told media last week that the Lighthouse Beach net would cut right through the middle of their surfing zone.
Mr Blair said that in the interim the government would prioritise tagging of sharks along the north coast and the installation of so-called ‘smart buoys’.
The boys, which send a message to DPI staff when a shark is hooked, have a controversial reputation among conservationists because of the need for human intervention to tag and then release the animals.
Aerial surveillance would also be maintained, Mr Blair said said.
‘I have also asked the department of primary industries to further consult with local surfers and other stakeholders to ensure their safety concerns around the location of the barrier are considered,’ he added.