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March 3, 2021

Shark nets ‘rushed’ after Byron Bay attack

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A six-month trial of shark nets on the NSW north coast will be fast-tracked despite strong opposition after another surfer was attacked near Byron Bay.

Surf Life Saving NSW, meanwhile, has confirmed that all beaches across Byron Bay have re-opened  after yesterday’s ‘encounter’.

Jade Fitzpatrick, 36, escaped with three puncture wounds to his upper thigh when his surfboard bore the brunt of the attack off a beach between Suffolk Park and Broken Head on Monday morning.

A photo of the young man's injuries following the shark attack at Broken Head yesterday morning. Photo Aaron Hoffam Facebook
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The attack was the third in a month, prompting NSW Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair to promise new laws to install the nets before the summer school holidays, despite fears they could capture and kill other marine life.

Mr Fitzpatrick has said that, despite the attack, he is personally opposed to shark nets.

Rushed: Greens

But Greens marine and fisheries spokesperson Justin Field has accused the government of  ‘rushing through legislation for more old-style shark mesh nets’

‘[It] shows that the government is moving away from a science based approach and is not being honest with the community about the limitations of this outdated technology,’ Mr Field said.

‘There have been 21 shark encounters on netted beaches in the last 23 years. Shark nets can’t guarantee public safety and we need to be honest about that instead of painting them as the solution.

‘The community understands Government can’t fully remove the risk of shark bites but people want a science based approach and support for local solutions not a political fix for the government.

‘What nets will do is catch and kill a lot of other marine life like turtles and dolphins and nobody wants to see that, especially not on the north coast,’ he said.

His sentiments were echoed by Byron’s Green mayor Simon Richardson.

Who said that while the recent attack had understandably cause distress and concern in his shire, there was no appetite in his community for nets.

Non-lethal measures

‘Our beaches are part of a Marine Park and since November last year we’ve consistently requested support from the NSW government for non-lethal shark mitigation measures.  This includes land shark spotter programs and aerial surveillance patrols with drones or gyrocopters,’ mayor Richardson said..

‘Our recent shark spotter trial at Wategos with Sea Shepherd was considered successful and we’ve requested that the NSW government fund and extend the program to Broken Head, Cosy Corner and the Pass.

‘Combined with drone and aerial technology, we’re keen to look at non-lethal shark mitigation that suits our shallow profile beaches,’ he said.

Mayor Richardson said councillors and staff are meeting next week with the DPI deputy director general and his staff, to further discuss technology, programs and funding available to Byron Shire.

Too slow to act: Labor

Opposition leader Luke Foley meanwhile attacked premier Mike Baird and his government for not already implementing the same type of nets that protect Sydney’s beaches.

The move came as deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce warned the frequency of shark attacks in the region would deter tourists.

Hundreds gathered in Ballina on Sunday to protest the implementation of nets less than 24 hours before the latest attack.

Aaron Hoffman, who was in the water during Monday’s attack, said he favoured a targeted shark cull rather than netting.

Although another man, Geoffrey Knapp, who gave first aid to the victim, said neither netting nor a cull should be an option, but rather awareness should be key.

– with AAP

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