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January 24, 2022

Govt spying on sharks with new listening device at Ballina

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SMART drumlines have been shown to be much more effective at attracting target species than nets. (Image: Youtube.com)
SMART drumlines have been shown to be much more effective at attracting target species than nets. (Image: Youtube.com)

The NSW Government has expanded its network of ‘shark listening stations’ along the coastline to 21, with the addition of one at Ballina’s Lighthouse Beach following consultation with the local community and beach authorities recently.

Parliamentary Secretary for Northern NSW, Ben Franklin, said this extra line of defence would provide scientists ‘more information and assist in tracking shark movements in the area.’

‘We now have listening stations from Kingscliff in the north to Merimbula in the south – making the NSW coastline an “information highway” for tracking dangerous sharks,’ Mr Franklin said.

‘These stations provide the public with regular updates on shark movements in their local area, allowing them to make more informed decisions when visiting the beach.

‘Our shark scientists are currently tracking 111 white sharks, 31 bull and two tiger sharks across NSW.’

Sharks caught on SMART drumlines are fitted, where possible, with both an acoustic and satellite tag before being released out to sea.

When a tagged shark swims within 500 metres of the station, an alert is sent to both beach authorities and the public via the Shark Smart app.

Mr Franklin said more is being learnt about sharks than ever before, with the data not only helping research in NSW but around the world.

‘In our six-month net trial we caught only seven target sharks (including three white sharks) while 25 SMART drumlines caught 37 target sharks (including 31 white sharks) in the same period.

‘SMART drumlines are modern technology which are proving to be highly effective.’

There are currently 35 SMART drumlines on the north coast, with a further ten to be deployed shortly in the Byron area.

Nets still funded

But NSW Greens MLC Justin Field and Ballina Greens MP Tamara Smith have questioned why future funding had been provided for shark nets when the government has itself said results showed the drumlines to be far more effective.

‘It is concerning to see an allocation in the budget that specifically names shark nets when the trial over the last six months has been a total failure,’ Ms Smith said.

‘It speaks volumes about this government’s priorities when there’s been next to no funding to support improving the health of the Richmond River but millions for shark management that has been shown to be a failure.

‘I’m calling on the government to clarify its position. If they intend of rolling out nets again next summer what’s the point of current community consultations?’ she questioned

Justin Field, the Greens marine and fisheries spokesperson, said the party had ‘given conditional support to the targeted use of SMART drumlines but other non-lethal technologies deserve government support and can help reduce risks while providing other benefits to the community.’

‘The North Coast trial between December 2016 and June 2017 saw 127 marine creatures killed in the nets on the North Coast including endangered green turtles and dolphins and non-target sharks.

‘The government has continued to say they’ll take an evidence-based approach to shark management so why is there money in the budget for a failed netting program?

‘Everyone wants to ensure people are kept as safe as possible while keeping our marine environment healthy by minimising the toll on sharks and other marine animals. Shark nets don’t contribute to that goal.’ Mr Field said.


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