Though there are many who would oppose the use of any drumlines, the Tweed Shark Attack Mitigation Group (TSAMG) is calling on the NSW Government to do more to protect the shire’s beachgoers with the winter ‘shark season’ just around the corner.
Tweed Shire Councillor, and founding member of TSAMG, James Owen said it is almost twelve months since Rob Pedretti was tragically killed at South Kingscliff beach by a great white shark. The 2021 winter mullet run, and whale migration, is already underway and there is concern in the community that not enough is being done to keep the community safe from the possibility of shark attacks this winter.’
‘There is a growing concern about the increased presence of great white sharks along our beaches, with a number of recent sightings and a shark “bump” to a local surfer.
Cr Owen said he is contacted regularly by members of the community asking me what the NSW Government is doing to mitigate the possibility of shark attacks in the Tweed Shire. Currently, the only measures in place on the Tweed coastline for shark mitigation are UAVs, Surf Life Saving Patrols and a ‘shark listening station’ off Kingscliff Beach. However, many in our community feel the issue is bigger than just surveillance. I wrote to the Minister for Primary Industries, Adam Marshall, on 11 June 2020, four days after the devastating fatal attack on Mr Pedretti, requesting a number of shark attack mitigation measures for the Tweed Shire.’
Lack of action
Cr Owen said that while he commends the NSW Government for providing some additional funding for UAVs (drones), and UAV pilot training, there is still a lack of action on other suggested measures. ‘One of these measures is SMART drumlines, which have proven effective in places such as Ballina, and have minimal negative impacts on marine life.
TSAMG recently wrote to Minister Marshall to, again, request SMART drumlines be deployed along the Tweed Coast.’
The NSW Department of Primary Industries has advised that it is waiting for the results of its NSW Shark Smart community survey prior to considering deploying any additional shark attack mitigation measures.
The results of the survey are due to be published in a report to government in late June – more than 12 months after the fatal attack in South Kingscliff.
Humane Society International Australia
Marine Biologist for Humane Society International Australia, Lawrence Chlebeck, said that the NSW DPI have made great progress trialling new technologies to reduce the risk of shark bite.
‘SMART drumlines are one option, and far less environmentally damaging than shark nets and lethal drumlines – but even more effective at reducing risk and less damaging alternatives are drone surveillance and independently tested personal shark deterrents, which have proven effective against great whites.
‘Drone surveillance has the added benefit of helping to patrol beaches for the much greater risk of drowning as well, making UAVs an essential component of the beach safety toolkit.
I would advise the local community to be pushing for funding for drones above all else,’ said Mr Chlebeck.
Kiri Henry, who represents the Kingscliff Boardriders Club on the TSMAG, believes that last year’s fatal shark attack on Mr Pedretti at South Beach Kingscliff, a popular surfing beach, has had long reaching effects on the local community. ‘Our Boardriders club has lost at least half of the junior surfers who would normally compete at our monthly competitions, simply because they do not feel safe returning to the ocean. It has been a year since Rob Pedretti lost his life at our local break and nothing has been done.’
The TSAMG have written to the Minister for Agriculture, Mr Adam Marshall, requesting his assistance to fast track the community consultation process and implement a SMART drumline trial in the Tweed to minimise the risk of further loss of life due to a shark attack.