Marine conservationists and the NSW Greens have called on the coalition government to stop playing politics with shark nets and get behind the community-based Shark Watch program.
They are angry at the speed with which premier Mike Baird flew to Ballina on Friday to oversee the installation of the first of five shark nets in local waters.
The premier was met with a crowd of about 60 protesters, including Dean Jefferys, who was dressed as a hammerhead shark.
Mr Jefferys made national headlines after throwing a net over the premier.
‘I did this to give the premier an opportunity to experience what it is like to be a marine creature trapped in a shark net,’ Mr Jefferys said later.
‘The premier was lucky, he wasn’t tangled up underwater unable to breathe, like the 16,500 marine creatures that have died in the last 65 years in NSW waters because of these indiscriminate killing nets.
Mr Jefferys said 4,773 endangered hammerhead sharks were part of the 12,000 marine creatures killed as non targeted species in shark nets.
Greens marine and fisheries spokesperson Justin Field accused Mr Baird of playing politics with shark nets.
‘Mike Baird’s whirlwind media focussed trip to the North Coast shows his nets trial is more about politics than about science,’ Mr Field said.
‘The speed of legislation and the failure to consult meaningfully on the design and management of the trial shows it for the PR exercise it is.
‘That’s a real shame when a community based non-lethal solution is ready to go in Shark Watch and with a very small government investment could be rolled out across the region.
‘Communities up and down the NSW coastline want to know they are part of the solution and they need resources to take up that role.
‘Efficient shark management must include government doing the heavy lifting on research, infrastructure and surveillance and the community getting supported to run proven programs like Shark Watch.’