Chris Dobney & Darren Coyne
The federal environment minister says he is open to proposals for drum lines and a cull of great white sharks, including on the NSW north coast.
‘I absolutely put human safety first and foremost in my mind,’ Josh Frydenberg told ABC TV on Wednesday, adding that federal approval was needed for a cull or drum lines because the sharks are a vulnerable species.
His comments come following teenager Cooper Allen’s shark bite while surfing at Ballina’s Lighthouse Beach on Monday.
The teen had previously told media he was opposed to culling and netting.
Wishful thinking: ASR
Vice president of Australian Seabird Rescue and Ballina Shire councillor, Keith Williams, has added his voice to the tide of opinion against the idea of a shark cull or the introduction of shark nets.
Shark nets are indiscriminate and could decimate local marine wildlife if introduced said, Mr Williams.
White sharks are oceanic and roam thousands of kilometres. The idea that killing some sharks locally might reduce the risk of attack is wishful thinking, he said.
But Mr Frydenberg’s comments have been echoed by some in the north coast surfing community, including Le Ba Boardriders president Don Munro, who told ABC this morning ‘selective control’ may be required.
Former prime Minister Tony Abbott has led the call for a cull, telling Radio 3AW yesterday that ‘if it’s a choice between people and animals, I’m on the side of the people every time’.
‘I’m lucky to surf on Sydney beaches and beaches in Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong (which) since the 1940s have been protected by mesh,’ he said.
‘Now if it’s good enough for Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong, for the life of me, I don’t know why it’s not good enough for the north coast of NSW.’
Mr Abbott also questioned why a commercial shark fishery had not yet been considered for the area.
Secord rejects Abbott’s call
NSW shadow minister for the north coast Walt Secord rejected Mr Abbott’s call for a cull.
‘While the safety of swimmers and surfers must always come first, it is the responsibility of the state government to find ways to protect the community,’ Mr Secord said.
‘Some north coast locals have likened swimming and surfing at dusk and dawn like dancing on a shark’s dinner plate – so it is unfair to undertake a wholesale slaughter of sharks.
‘Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott has forgotten that swimming and surfing in areas of high shark populations has some inherent risk.
‘Mr Abbott’s call to undertake a shark cull is a bridge too far.’
Meanwhile, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has also offered to extend her state’s successful shark drum lines and nets into northern NSW.
‘We have the technology, we have the skills,’ Ms Palaszczuk said.
The premier said she was concerned about the increased visitor numbers to the notorious stretch of coastline coming up to the Christmas holidays.
‘I think the NSW government has tried other methods, they have not been found to be working,’ she said.
She said there had only been one shark fatality in Queensland – off Amity Point – since 1960.
But Ms Palaszczuk said if NSW premier Mike Baird took her up on the offer, the NSW government would need to pay for the extension.
Meanwhile, NSW primary industries minister Niall Blair will visit Lighthouse Beach today to announce a three-month trial of drones to scan for sharks on the north and south coasts.
The trial will use private pilots, certified by CASA, to fly the miniature aircraft, which will be flown for one hour each morning on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays only.
– with AAP