Council to request continuation of shark spotting program

A SHARK Spotting Trial conducted at Wategos Beach, Byron Bay will provide Byron Shire Council with an opportunity to address the complex issue of water safety and shark attack prevention.

Byron Shire Mayor Simon Richardson said the recently completed trial was a fantastic success.

"(It) provides an opportunity for further refinement and partnership between the State government and the Byron Shire to extend the trial to other locations and roll out the program in time for summer," he said.

The study was led by Sea Shepherd's National Shark Campaign Coordinator, Natalie Banks and funded by Byron Shire Council and Ballina MP, Tamara Smith.

Representatives of the 12-year Shark Spotters program in Cape Town, South Africa, provided expert advice - including looking at concerns such as visibility, glare and the distance and location of water users.

"While we wait for the publication of a peer review of the data, initial feedback clearly illustrates that our shallow bays and clear water provide incredible visibility, and the area's natural headlands make the Shark Spotting program a no brainer when it comes to providing security and peace of mind for ocean goers," Cr Richardson continued.

Sea Shepherd representative Natalie Banks said she had no reservations in saying that shark spotting would offer Wategos beach goers a lot more security than they currently have, and "surfers would feel completely comfortable knowing that someone had their backs should a more permanent spotting program be provided".

The shark spotting trial was highly effective, and implemented at minimal cost, Cr Richardson said.

The trial spotted five shark sightings compared to only one recorded by authorities, he said.

The spotting team from Sea Shepherd were armed with an air-horn and an Acute Shark Attack Pack medical kit should they encounter an attack, but despite seeing sharks on five occasions during the study, the emergency equipment was not needed.

Byron Shire Council will now formally request both continued support from Ballina MP, Tamara Smith and urgent support by the State Government, calling upon the relevant Minister, Niall Blair to support Council's initiative to undertake trials at Broken Head, Tallows beach and the Pass and Main Beach.

"If these initial trials prove successful, we would seek ongoing support for the implementation of shark spotting over the summer holiday period," Cr Richardson said.

Byron Shire and its community have been committed to best practice, non harmful measures to keep ocean goers safe.

This method has worked in South Africa for over a decade, and was shown by the State Government's own independent report on shark mitigation options to be the most effective.

"With this incredibly successful trial in Byron to prove it beyond doubt, we now hope the Government will work with us, acknowledge that this program could be an integral part of the shark mitigation response mix in some areas and within some conditions," Cr Richardson said.

"We hope to gain ongoing support so we can adopt an effective program that can work alongside drones, aerial surveillance and the surf lifesavers on our beaches."

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