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Byron Shire
December 2, 2021

Government defends returning shark nets despite evidence

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North coast MLC Ben Franklin (Nationals) has defended his government’s decision to reinstate shark nets for the north coast in the coming summer despite their apparent lack of effectiveness and high marine life kill rate.

The government’s position comes despite a new announcement from manufacturers of the electronic Shark Shield deterrent, which is accompanied by video footage (above) showing sharks shying away from a surfboard mounted with the device and with bait attached.

‘A lot of myths’

Johnny Debnam, Terra Australis Creative Director said, there were ‘a lot of myths about shark deterrents.’

‘Over the years we have continually tested the various shark deterrents that have been released around the world and I have to say, the new Shark Shield FREEDOM+ Surf hits the mark and works like no other,’ Mr Debnam said in a statement.

He added that ‘52 per cent of all shark fatalities in Australia are surfers and lethal methods such as shark culling, nets and drum lines are not the solution to protecting surfers and our environment.’

But the government has yet to make a decision on trialling larger-scale Shark Shield technology, which it has been reported could protect an entire beach.

Recent data from the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) show the five north coast shark nets caught just three per cent of sharks while SMART drumlines caught 92 per cent of sharks.

The Echo asked Mr Franklin, ‘It appears smart drumlines are more effective – would you agree, and, what scientific data/metrics and/or advice have informed the government’s decision to reinstate the nets?’

Franklin replied, ‘Public safety is the key priority for the NSW government.’

‘We aim to minimise the risk to swimmers and surfers from shark attacks and the amount of by-catch caught.

North-coast based Nationals MLC Ben Franklin.
North-coast based Nationals MLC Ben Franklin.

‘Every available technology’

‘Every available technology is implemented to reduce the impact on threatened species.’

‘Shark nets are fitted with a number of “dolphin pingers” and “whale alarms” to deter the marine mammals from the netted area. Contractors are required to free all animals found alive in the nets where it is practical and safe to do so,’ he said.

Mr Franklin continued, ‘following the analysis of results of the first net trial, the NSW Government determined more data are needed in order to make a long-term decision on the future of the nets.

‘During the six-month trial we tested both nets and SMART drumlines, and while the drumlines proved more effective at catching “target” sharks, a further trial will provide more evidence of the nets’ effectiveness and allow us to address some of the issues raised.

Increase in negativity

Mr Franklin continued, ‘Two surveys were undertaken to inform location of nets and assess social attitudes towards the nets. Generally, Ballina and Evans Head residents were more positive than negative towards using nets, both at the start and the end of the trial, due to feelings of safety and perceived reductions in shark bites.

‘There was an increase in negativity at the end of the trial primarily in response to bycatch (animals caught in nets other than target sharks).

‘The NSW government continues to investigate a range of new and emerging technologies to mitigate shark interactions as part of the $16m Shark Management Strategy.

‘A suite of measures designed to reduce the impact on marine animals are being tested and trialled including; SMART drumlines, VR4G listening stations, and drone and helicopter aerial surveillance.

‘SMART drumlines are a key component of the Shark Management Strategy and NSW is leading the world with this technology, which is proving to help to protect human life while minimising the impact on marine species.

‘By the end of 2017 there will be 100 SMART drumlines deployed along the NSW coast,’ he said.

Tamara Smith’s petition to stop the nets is here.

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  1. Feeling safe and actually being safe are completely different. Putting out nets creates a false sense of safety and causes far too much impact to non-target species. Great to see money being spent based on ‘perceptions’ and not reality.

    16 M better spent investing in Shark Shield technology and other proven personal deterrent devices.

    Maybe there could be some tourist dollars in guided tours for those that want to see sharks in their habitat – the ocean..

    • The tourist base of Ballina is families, not well heeled singles and couples who can afford tourists trips to shark watch. Those families come to Ballina for a variety of reasons but one of the important ones is to go swimming in the ocean. The State Government is planning to use nets again as it does not consider acceptable the risk that a member of one of those families be killed. We will watch with interest trails of alternative technologies, but in Ballina we care about our visitors and endeavour to protect them.


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