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Byron Shire
October 16, 2021

Shark nets set to be removed in June

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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

The state government will remove its controversial shark nets from waters off the north coast following the six-month trial that ends in June.

They will be offset by an increase in the number of SMART drum lines, which have proven more successful..

The move comes as whales return to our waters on their migration to the tropics.

While there have been no human fatalities on north coast beaches since the trial began in December last year, other species have not fared so well.

An endangered turtle, dolphins and stingrays have been killed as part of the net trial.

Even the minister has been forced to admit the nets have effectively been a failure.

In six months just six target sharks – including two white, one bull and three tiger sharks – have been caught in five nets across Ballina, Lennox Head and Evans Head, Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair admitted on Tuesday.

However, the nets caught 244 non-target animals with less than half released alive, according to the NSW Greens.

Some 127 marine creatures were killed including an endangered Green turtle, rays and a white spotted guitarfish.

‘The results make a compelling case for the government to end the shark net trial early,’ Greens marine environment spokesman Justin Field said in a statement.

Some 29 target sharks were caught by SMART drumlines on the north coast during the same trial period with only one dying, Mr Blair said on Tuesday, prompting the Greens to demand the government choose drumlines over nets on NSW beaches.

‘The evidence is in – shark nets are little more than floating death traps for all marine life while SMART drumlines appear to be an effective means of catching target sharks,’ Mr Field said.

‘Sharks caught on SMART drumlines are tagged and contribute to our understanding of shark behaviours and almost all have been removed from the inshore zone and released alive.’

The trial of nets has also been savaged by the Humane Society International Australia which is calling for the end of the ‘lethal’ program.

Campaigner Nicola Beynon argues ‘culls through shark nets and drum lines don’t make our beaches safer’.

Ms Beynon also raised concerns about whale migrations with reports humpbacks are already moving northward to warmer waters.

‘Before any whales get added to the list of marine deaths the nets should be removed to allow for their safe passage,’ she said in a statement.

The data from the trial will be analysed by Department of Primary Industries’ shark scientists and community consultation will be held to discuss the outcomes of the trial, Mr Blair insists.

‘When the nets are removed, we will increase the number of SMART drumlines to 35 (from 25) – this will also be the most effective measure as the whale migration period begins on the north coast,’ he said.

– with AAP

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  1. Nobody ,with any knowledge, ever thought this was a reasonable or sane idea.
    The wilderness can not and should not be made ‘safe’ . If people aren’t comfortable with the knowledge that there are risks in the real world, then they should stay home with their knitting-( perhaps with great care of the pointy ends of the needles )

  2. As a keen surfer for the past 40 years there are a couple of points that I feel have been missed in the discussion about shark nets verses drum lines. My first point is that sharks are apex predators that have remained unchanged for over 60 million years. They are not dumb mindless hunting machines, they are intelligent animals that assess, learn and react to the environment. If a small shark is in feeding mode and a larger feeding shark comes into the area the smaller shark knows a threat is nearby and clears out before it becomes a meal for the larger shark. This is,I believe how shark nets work. A hunting shark comes into an area where a net is in use and soon detects that there is a threat in the area. The sharks response is to stop hunting and head for safer ground. The result is that the net does not block or trap the shark, it simply changes the sharks behavior with the result that our beaches become safer. In contrast drum lines use bait that stimulates all sharks in the area into feeding mode. Yes you catch and release one shark but where do the other stimulated sharks go, they go hunting for a meal. Marine by-catch is a small price to pay for human safety on our beaches. If we as a society were serious about reducing by-catch we should stop all trawling immediately as unintended by-catch of up to 5 tonnes for every 1 tonne of seafood in our shops makes shark nets look positively humane by comparison.

    • you use the fact that trawling for food is bad as justification for a seperate problem .but this just doubles the waste and destruction you highlighted … yeah trawling is bad and so is sacrificing 200 creatures of which some are endangered , for no food just to make it a little safer for a minority … i suggest if your worried about your safety then going into a highly dangerous environment containg highly dangerous creatures may not be your best choice brother d

  3. Shark nets fail ? Another mindless Greenies comment from tree house. Safely away from water .Check the bycatch at a trawler near you . The weekly Echo. Or weekly green Jibber jabber.

  4. “Even the minister has been forced to admit the nets have effectively been a failure.” If you are reporting this its good journalism to give proof of this or is this a false claim – fake news>

  5. I’m with Steve Scott on this,
    Great educated answer in reaction to this piece.
    I do feel very bad about the marine animals that are getting caught in the nets, but I value my/human safety higher than the small number of marine life getting caught in the nets.

    I’m sorry but these nets were set up to protect surfers predominantly, they weren’t put in for the speculators who love to comment negatively on these threads and especially people who love to say, see I told you so.

    I believe what Michael Baird did by doing this, was one of his last acts as premier was his greatest.

    If you aren’t a surfer than these nets were not put in for you, these were put in to protect us while out in the real world instead of staying home knitting.

    If sharks were still caught by trawlers this problem wouldn’t have been an issue, there numbers have increased greatly since being protected.


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