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Byron Shire
October 16, 2021

Eco-warriors meet government authority on Ballina’s high seas

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By Mia Armitage

At least four of five North Coast shark nets were hauled from the ocean on Sunday after Sea Shepherd activists found two rays entangled off Lighthouse Beach in Ballina.

Marine scientist Scott Wallace said he saw two white spotted eagle rays caught when he dove with fellow Apex Harmony shark protection campaigner Zaid Dillon from Sea Shepherd’s inflatable raft, Grey Nurse.

They obviously haven’t checked the nets for a while, said captain Jonathan Clark when Mr Wallace confirmed one of the rays was dead and decomposing.

One of two rays found caught in shark nets off Ballina beaches. Photo Sea Shepherd
One of two rays found caught in shark nets off Ballina beaches. Photo Sea Shepherd

Mr Wallace was unsure how long it took the ray to reach its decomposition levels but guessed around two days.

A second caught ray, also believed to be a white spotted eagle ray, survived and Department of Primary Industries contractors cut the animal free from the net some twenty minutes later.

Captain Clark reminded all aboard Grey Nurse not to touch the shark nets lest DPI authorities issue a $22,000 fine to offenders.

Contractors aboard Wahoo removed nets from Lighthouse and Shelly Beaches around midday and said they had already taken nets out of the water at Sharpes Beach and Main Beach, Evans Head.

‘They’ll be out of the water all week,’ said one contractor, who appeared to be Wahoo’s captain but did not identify himself, ‘we’ve got some bad weather coming’.

He said a fifth net at Seven Mile Beach in Lennox Head was under another contractor’s responsibility and didn’t know if it was to stay in the ocean.

One of the three men aboard Wahoo confirmed he was a DPI representative paid to observe the contractors at work, as stipulated in the DPI’s North Coast Shark Management Plan.

DPI authorities hired local fishers to check shark nets at least twice daily but last month said poor weather was hampering regular inspection efforts.

Le-Ba Boardriders President Don Munro told press at the time weather had been predominantly fine and should not have stopped net checks while Ballina Councillor Keith Richardson said contractors were not being paid enough.

Nets were checked less than 1.5 times per day on average in the first two months of the NSW government’s controversial North Coast Shark Net Trial with a third monthly report due this week.

Captain Clark, QLD co-ordinator for the Apex Harmony campaign, said activists planned to check nets again as soon as possible but he was pleased contractors had removed nets temporarily.

‘We’re here to advocate for human and marine safety,’ he said, ‘we want the most effective, non-lethal shark mitigation strategies possible and the shark net trial is not that’.

A national senate inquiry into shark mitigation began in mid-February and Mr Clark said Apex Harmony campaigners had made a submission.

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  1. Thank goodness for Sea Shepherd, checking on the results of Baird’s environmental vandalism. Previously there have been a dolphin, turtles, and other rays drowned in these nets.

  2. Shark nets are nothing more than an expensive scheme to make people feel secure from sharks. If the government was really serious about stopping shark attacks, which are relatively rare, they should look at working to restore the ecological balance in the ocean.

    Surfing and swimming in the sea is less risky than playing golf. More people die every year on golf courses from lightning strikes and bee stings than people die from shark attacks.

    We need to simply leave the sharks alone and stop this madness of killing so much just to make some people feel safe.

    Shark nets do not stop shark attacks.

  3. One dead ray, one dolphin, one turtle or one whale is one death too many. Shark nets were originally deployed around 80 years ago with the idea that short shark nets would deter a sharks making that area their home base. Yet now with advanced tagging technology it has been discovered that most of the targeted sharks migrate large areas and wouldn’t make that area home even if the nets weren’t there. The Tourism industry has relied on fear and ignorance and active tourist operators to perpetuate the lie that Australia has shark nets so swimmer are safe, yet the current Shark net program does not net in an entire area as many people think. As this lie is exposed both locally and over seas Tourist operators will instead need to rely on telling the truth to encourage tourists and people in general to visit their area. I suggest an educational program informing tourist of potential risks and how the community and government manage those risks, e.g. drones, shark spotting, etc, is a much more reliable and responsible way to promote safe ocean use to tourists and locals alike who have a concern about an unwanted shark encounter. I wonder if there is another shark encounter in the “Shark netted” Ballina region whether that person will litigate against council or government considering they were given the impression it was safe to swim in the area as there were now shark nets in place. I would suggest shark nets do not offer the safety from sharks they profess and the cost to tax payers and marine life of those nets are unacceptable. Much more effective alternative technologies exist that make the public safer without the potential dangers to other marine life, such as Spotters Program, Personal repellents, Sonar, Shark tagging, Education and using a drone. good on ya Sea Shepherd for keeping and eye on these unnecessary shark nets.

  4. Throw the book at them. Non-interference with nets is not an excuse, and is probably a lie anyway. Sea Shepherd’s been looking for reasons to ruin the entire program since its inception.

  5. Apex Harmony Sea Shepherd crew are showing people what’s really happening out there. Good on them! There needs to be more transparency by DPI and better education about sharks for ocean users. There are hardly any locals that want the stupid nets that do not protect you from sharks. Australian Seabird Rescue is devastated about the death of sea turtles and other protected marine wildlife. These nets are so old school and need to be removed forever! The community needs to get loud now and let the government know that we do not want these archaic nets. Speak up and tell everyone the truth about the stupid shark nets!

  6. The Gold and Sunshine Coasts results look great; unless there is some other reason.
    Many of the other “cures” don’t produce results (as yet)

    If you have some photograph evidence Sea Shepard…can we see it?

    Keith Richardson, how much are the “inspectors” they being paid? (I understand the DPI have a local UNI contact who has a supervisory role for some of the program. I assume there are still DPI staff permanently based in Ballina)

  7. You can feel the cheap sanctimony fairly oozing from 1,2,3 of these letters. I wonder if these righteous ones , glorying in their smug paeans use Fly Spray to get rid of flies in their house? Do they use rodent baits to rid their houses of rodents?. Do they swat a mossie on their arm?, Do they use surface spray to rid their houses of cockroaches? Do they put salt on a leech to remove it? Use an antibiotic to kill germs?
    Yes to any? So how is a cockroach, a rat, a mossie, a fly, a germ or a leech of any less worth than some a shark or ray. They were all equal in the name of Gaia, God or Global Warming or whatever deity you have..
    No to all?. Explains it all, really.
    Isn,t your whole political philosophy thrust as a Green to espouse equality?. Humbugs!.

  8. Wow, let’s face it the sooner we kill everything from the wild us humans will be better off. What a sad world we’ve become. Nature is our greatest asset. Well that’s my opinion anyway.

  9. It’s now, thanks to many caring and persistent organisations, that so many people who have held the coastal waters as part of their very core of existence, realise the unacceptable high cost of sacrificing animals in the false hope of water safety, and with the understanding that the nets and drum lines must go.

  10. Willaim, if you are going to use an analogy, then please do it properly!

    Killing animals that venture into our human houses is exactly the reason why we humans should NOT venture into shark-infested waters: we are entering their habitats, their homes, and then imposing our will on them!

    If you want a decent analogy, how about imagining cockroaches coming into your home and then killing you, instead of vice versa. You wouldn’t like that, would you? In the same way, the rays, dolphins, and sharks don’t like being destroyed in their own lounge rooms.

    And one doesn’t need to be a Green in order to understand the concepts of justice and fairness, unless your point is that no other parties espouse that sort of mentality.

    Don’t want to be shark food? Stay out of shark-infested water. It really is that simple.


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