When diving in Lennox Head last year Sea Shepherd divers found a 1.5m Dusky Whaler shark, not long dead in the net. (Photo: Sea Shepherd Australia).
When diving in Lennox Head last year Sea Shepherd divers found a 1.5m Dusky Whaler shark, not long dead in the net. (Photo: Sea Shepherd Australia).

End to shark net trials on North Coast welcomed

NEWS that shark nets on North Coast beaches will not be reinstated this summer has the Deputy Mayor of Ballina celebrating.

Minister for Primary Industries, Niall Blair today decided a third shark net trial would not go ahead on Northern NSW beaches after community feedback showed the majority didn't support them and they caught fewer targeted sharks than SMART (Shark-Management-Alert-in-Real-Time) drumlines.

Instead of nets, swimmers will be protected by up to 35 SMART drumlines, drone and aerial surveillance at Seven Mile Beach at Lennox Head, Sharpes, Shelly and Lighthouse beaches at Ballina, as well as Main Beach at Evans Head.

While the third trial will not go ahead, it will be at the discretion of Mr Blair to put the nets back in at any time if there is sufficient evidence of an increase in shark activity or a change in community sentiment.

"Up to 35 SMART drumlines will continue to be trialled daily between Lennox Head and Evans Head, weather permitting, until mid-2020," Mr Blair said.

"Aerial surveillance will continue every weekend and during the school holidays. We are also currently working with Surf Life Saving on extending the drone trials beyond just the North Coast."

Ballina Deputy Mayor Keith Williams had been advocating to rid Ballina of the nets for the past two years.

"The final nail in the coffin was the news that the nets had killed twice as many dolphins as they had caught target sharks in the second trial. After that, even the staunchest supporters of nets realised that something was seriously wrong," Cr Williams said.

In trials between November and May at five north coast beaches, the nets caught just two bull sharks, one of which died, among 145 animals

Cr Williams said during course of the two shark net trials, community support for nets halved, from 52 per cent to 26 per cent of Ballina residents.

He expressed his gratitude to the many people that responded to the community survey and gave the government an unambiguous message.

"I'm so proud of my community, that we decided to stand up for wildlife and reject fear mongering," Cr Williams said.

"The people of Ballina are the first community to be told the truth about shark nets. They're also the first to say 'thanks, but no thanks'.

"Thank you to those who were able to attend the recent meeting and share your views with the minister." 

Surf Life Saving FNC Duty Officer Chris Samuels said lifesavers were working closely with the DPI to continue drone trials on local patrolled beaches.

"In several cases, using the drones have been beneficial. We have had early sightings of threatening shark species on the coast and were able to warn swimmers early," he said.

Northern NSW lifeguard coordinator Scott McCartney said he would be confident in swimmers safety if nets stayed out of the water.

Sea Shepherd's NSW Coordinator Allyson Jennings said the announcement was a decision for common sense.

"When 97 per cent of the animals caught in the nets were not target sharks and the local community confidence in the nets is as low as 32 per cent, it was madness that the NSW Government could even consider a third trial," she said. 

"DPI's data supports how ineffective these nets really are and they have never been able to demonstrate effectiveness in terms of ocean user safety. Shark nets are nothing but passive fishing devices which kill marine life."

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