A rally against shark nets will be held at Lighthouse Beach in Ballina on Sunday to coincide with the release of a rescued sea turtle.
The rally, organised by the Australian Seabird Rescue group, coincides with moves to set up a volunteer Shark Watch program at Ballina beaches.
ASR general manager Kathrina Southwell said speakers at Sunday’s rally would discuss the impact nets would have on turtles and other marine animals.
Ms Southwell said the release of Kimba the Green Sea Turtle was significant as it was the 160th turtle to be tagged and released by the group, which was opposed to shark nets.
‘We fear that many of the turtles we rescue and rehabilitate will become trapped and drowned in the nets before they strand on the shoreline, or once released will become trapped and drown in the nets,’ Ms Southwell said.
‘The death of these protected sea turtles would undermine all of the hard work the volunteers have done since we began rescuing turtles.’
‘We are asking for attendees to wear blue in support of Australian Seabird Rescue and to show that we do not want shark nets on our local beaches.
‘Since the nets were installed in Queensland, a total of 5056 sea turtles have been trapped and died.’
The release and rally will be held at 10am on Sunday at Lighthouse Beach.
Meanwhile, Ballina MP Tamara Smith has welcomed the efforts of local group Shark Watch NSW to set up a volunteer surveillance service to help protect swimmers and surfers at Ballina’s beaches.
‘I fully support this local solution to a very complex problem affecting Ballina’s residents. Shark Watch is well organised and committed to providing a shark spotting service using volunteers and drones,’ said Ms Smith.
‘Shark spotting was the most effective strategy identified in the Cardno review done on behalf of the NSW Department of Primary Industries in 2015.
‘Smart drumlines and CleverBuoy technologies were also on that shortlist and these have been funded by the DPI – why not the number one option of shark spotting?’
‘Shark Watch is willing to provide a non-lethal shark detection service in time for the summer holiday season, so that residents and tourists alike know that there are beaches in Ballina where there are volunteers dedicated to spotting sharks, backed up by drone flights and a real time warning system for ocean users.’
Shark Watch NSW spokesperson Andrew Nieuwenhof said his group believed surveillance by volunteer spotters and drones (combined) offered the best available and most cost effective option.
‘Our short-term goal is to have five teams operational by the Christmas holiday season – a goal that requires only very modest start-up funding. This would allow us to cover five sites between Lennox Point and Lighthouse Beach, and provide a valuable community service,’ Mr Nieuwenhof said.
A proposal for this funding was recently presented to the NSW government. In the absence of a response so far, the Shark Watch committee unanimously agreed to begin a crowdfunding campaign to achieve their goal.