Sea Shepherd has accused the NSW Government of deliberately abandoning rays trapped in Ballina shark nets to die after it was refused permission to rescue two animals yesterday.
The organisation says that despite being told of two rays trapped in nets off Ballina beaches on Sunday (January 7), DPI Fisheries would neither authorise Sea Shepherd divers to disentangle them or send a contractor to their rescue.
When the group’s volunteers inspected the shark nets off Ballina yesterday they found an eagle ray entangled and struggling in the Sharpes Beach net and also a manta ray, dead on the sea floor adjacent to the net.
Another eagle ray was found fighting for life in the net off Lighthouse Beach.
But after speaking to the local authorities the Sea Shepherd crew say they were told that the animal would be left to die. Neither the contractor nor Fisheries would release the rays.
‘This is yet another example of how NSW shark nets are indiscriminate killers decimating our marine wildlife. It’s not the first non-target animal we have found, but despite being notified, Fisheries have said they won’t release these animals and instead leave them to die,’ said Sea Shepherd spokesperson, Jonathan Clark.
10 animals entangled
He added the group had run its boat boat Grey Nurse out to the Ballina nets 10 times since December and had found 10 animals entangled – none of them the target shark species.
‘Our crews have consisted of several volunteers from the local community and are bringing some transparency to the destruction caused by these nets,’ Mr Clark said.
‘This net trial is not a shark bite mitigation method that is bringing safety to locals and tourists. Sea Shepherd cares very much about human safety and these nets do not provide that. They provide a false sense of safety whilst killing precious marine animals.’
‘Sea Shepherd is told to not interfere with the shark nets or volunteers face heavy fines and charges, even if it means merely freeing non-target species, such as rays and endangered turtles.’
But he said the government was not responding within its mandatory response times to release marine animals ‘from these indiscriminate killing devices off our coasts.’
Has asked why, ‘if [the government] will not release these animals alive, then why can’t we?’
False sense of security
Sea Shepherd Australia MD Jeff Hansen said the group was ‘committed to providing transparency where there is none with the shark nets and drum lines off Ballina and the east coast of Australia.’
‘Sea Shepherd is highlighting that these 1930s solutions are nothing more than a false sense of security [while] wiping out tens of thousands of marine animals over the years.’
Mr Hansen said that Sea Shepherd’s position was backed by the recent Senate enquiry into shark mitigation,‘which highlights that in 2018 we don’t have to choose between human safety and protecting our marine life.’
‘We can do both with modern day alternatives. Governments are failing with public safety if they continue to back shark nets and drum lines,’ Mr Hansen said.