Byron Shire Council is putting its money where its mouth is in providing funding for a shark spotting program by Shark Watch in the Byron shire.
The council recently rejected an offer from the state government to have shark nets installed along its coastline, whereas neighbouring Ballina shire is taking up the offer of nets.
Byron mayor Simon Richardson said his council supported non-lethal measures, and this morning announced that the council would provide funding to set up its first site at Cosy Corner, at Tallow Beach.
Shark Watch is a community group which uses volunteers and a drone to scan the sea near surfers and swimmers at beaches for any shark activity. If sharks are spotted, the group uses an agreed alert system to warn people in the area that sharks are present, so that surfers and swimmers can leave the water.
Cr Richardson told Echonetdaily that the council would provide $11,000 for the first site, with the money going to purchase a drone, sun shelter and a solar panel to power a computer that analysed pictures from the drone.
He said the council had also met with NSW Department of Primary Industries (Fisheries) about the Shark Watch program.
‘Fisheries are keen to partner with us because it sits well with their methods as drones are well and truly part of their strategy,’ Cr Richardson said.
‘We would love to have a few beaches up and going by Christmas.’
‘It was also pleasing yesterday to gain in principle support from the Department of Primary Industries-Fisheries for the community initiative and we’re keen to see Shark Watch become part of the NSW shark management strategy.
‘Working within state-wide protocols and management systems and alongside state wide organisations, will allow this community initiative to grow across the State and support ongoing education programs.
‘The program will run in conjunction with our highly valued Surf Life Saving patrols and bring new technology and surveillance training to our beaches.
‘The community looking after the community is the best outcome and the Shark Watch program can make this happen.’
NSW Shark Watch committee member, Jann Gilbert, said volunteers were very excited about the announcement and looked forward to being able to start regular patrols in time for the 2016-17 holiday season.
‘This is a great step forward in the search for alternative methods of shark detection and management.’
‘We’re extremely grateful to Byron Shire Council and local MP Tamara Smith for stepping up to support the first Shark Watch crew in Australia,’ said Jann Gilbert.
Byron Shire Council will be liaising with Cape Byron Marine Park and National Parks and Wildlife Service to help to enable the program in Byron Shire.
‘The community initiated and sustained program will support ongoing education programs and see the results shared with the Department of Primary Industries,’ Mayor Richardson said.
‘Working alongside the Department of Primary Industries, our Shire is also keen to see this become part of the NSW shark management strategy,’ he said.
Location of the Shark Watch spotters will move around beaches within Byron Shire dependent on sea and wind conditions.
Ballina MP Tamara Smith, a vocal opponent of shark nets, welcomed the announcement.
‘I am enormously encouraged to see that Byron Shire will fund Shark Watch to operate at its beaches, providing a greater level of safety to surfers and swimmers while not endangering marine life,’ Ms Smith said.