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Business and surf groups applaud $16m shark strategy

Michelle Edwards took this photo of police returning a shark to the water at Shelly Beach, Ballina.
Michelle Edwards took this photo of police returning a shark to the water at Shelly Beach, Ballina.

UPDATE 2.50PM: The state government's $16m shark strategy has been well received by Lennox locals, but the final details and implementation timetable are crucial.

At first glance the state government strategy is  "very, very good," Don Munro president of the Le-Ba Boardriders
said.

"I'm stoked. For the first time there is something to pin our hopes on," he said.
"The strategy might encourage people to get back into the water."

But its effectiveness would come down to the fine print and timing of the plan

Even though $3.5 million has been set aside for aerial surveillance "this won't take long to burn through when
you're using a helicopter," Mr Munro said.

Aerial surveillance had to continue all through summer, he said.

 Many of the measures including sonar detection and the 4G listening devices were largely untried technology.

Nonetheless he is happy to get them out in the water to see if they can help.

"Getting real-time information to surf lifesavers and others has to help," he said.

Neil Kennedy president of the Lennox Head Chamber of Commerce spent Sunday at a fund raiser for Evans Head
Shark attack survivor Craig Ison.

So while the issue of sharks has been on his mind he is still analysing the shark strategy.

But he is certainly happy with $16m in funding.

"It looked like it was a typical and measured government response to a difficult conundrum," he said.

The focus of the strategy on the North Coast means the region is among the safest in Australia for water users.

"Come to the North Coast it is safer than anywhere," he said.

But he was also quick to point out that there hasn't been a tangible negative effect on tourism attributable to the rise in shark sighting and attacks over the last year.

The last few months have been winter and typically quiet for the seaside town.

The retail strip made up of businesses like restaurants and clothing shops was already starting to pick-up as the
weather gets warmer he said.

 

UPDATE 9.56am: BALLINA Greens MP and Spokesperson on Marine Environment and Fisheries, Tamara Smith has welcomed the Government's announcement of $16 million for shark research, surveillance, public awareness and trials of non-lethal deterrent technologies.

"The Government has recognised that killing sharks with more nets is not the answer," she said. 

"The focus on surveillance, education, research and trials of non-lethal deterrents is the right one and I'm glad to see the North Coast will be the focus of some of the technology trials.

"The Government's approach recognises the need to protect our marine life, including sharks, but to ensure the public have the best information to reduce the risk of shark encounters.

"No technology can completely eliminate the risk of a shark bite, but this response will make a significant difference while recognising the important role of sharks in a healthy marine environment.

"In the face of hysterical reporting from some media outlets, the community has made clear its opposition to killing sharks.

"The Government has listened to the community in developing this response and that is to be commended.

"My hope is that as these new technologies mature the Government starts to phase out the existing netting program in NSW which continues to kill dozens of sharks, dolphins, turtles and stingrays each year.

"I am concerned about reports that 'smart' drum-line technology may be considered in the trials.

"'Smart' drum-lines can't be considered a non-lethal technology and I will be seeking a clarification from the Minister on this issue.

"I look forward to continuing to work with the Ballina Shark Mitigation Working Group to ensure the roll out of trials and other programs on the North Coast deliver the best outcomes for the protection of our marine life and the safety of the public in my electorate."

 

INITIAL REPORT: THE NSW State Government has pledged $16 million to counter the shark menace that has rocked the North Coast in recent months.

There have been at least 12 shark-related incidents, including one fatality, in the region this year.

Ballina Mayor David Wright said he was "very grateful" for the well-funded strategy which will include increased aerial patrols, two eco-nets and four VR4G listening stations for local beaches.

"Obviously they have listened, $16 million is a lot of money," Cr Wright said.

The new VR4G offshore listening devices will be installed at Evans Head, Byron Bay, Lennox Head and Ballina.

The locations for the barrier nets has not yet been finalised but it has been sug- 

gested they could be deployed at Ballina or Lennox Head.

A spokeswoman for Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair said while final details are yet to be determined it is hoped that the bulk of the strategy will be in place for the summer period.

The spokeswoman said at least $3.5 million has been set aside for extending aerial patrols across NSW.

No details of flight scheduling have been released but Cr Wright said coverage from now till Easter would be the best outcome.

Mr Blair said the strategy was an integrated approach to protecting beachgoers not seen anywhere else in the world.

"After considering the advice from experts attending a recent summit in Sydney and consulting with communities including the North Coast, we will take a multi-faceted approach to the issue of detecting and deterring sharks," he said.

"What's more, we are proud to be the first jurisdiction anywhere in the world to adopt an integrated approach toward keeping our beaches safe."

Cr Wright said the effectiveness of locally co-ordinated strategies put in place over the last year had helped to influence government.

He said a range of local services had come together to develop a protocol that works.

"We have shown how to do it," he said.

AT A GLANCE: The $16 million shark management strategy:

  • $7.7 million for surveillance, detection and deterrents, including air patrols, barrier nets and VR4G shark tracking stations
  • $7 million for science and research, including additional expert staff and commercial grants to foster new shark detection and deterrent technology
  • $1.3 million for education and community awareness, including enhancements to the SharkSmart mobile app so it can provide real-time tracking of tagged sharks on a mobile phone/tablet.
  • North Coast Focus: two local beaches will be the first to trial barrier nets that do not aim to capture sharks or other marine life.
  • As well as the deployment of four VR4G tracking stations that monitor movements of tagged sharks and can send the information to surf lifesavers and others.
  • Other technology to be trialled includes new sonar technology that is able to detect sharks and relay information to shore, as well as unmanned drone aerial devices

Topics:  editors picks lismore nsw governement sharks



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