Greens MLC Justin Field
Greens MLC Justin Field

Shark issue needs 'scientific approach', says Greens MLC

INSTALLING shark nets at North Coast beaches is not the answer to the issue, says Greens MLC Justin Field.

He said the nets gave a "false sense of security" and that a "scientific approach" was needed.

The Baird government is launching a six-month trial of nets off two Ballina beaches this summer, but The Greens say shark-spotting programs are more effective and can be rolled out in a similar time frame.

Mr Field was derided by metropolitan media this week with the launch of his $2.5 million Shark Management Plan, which proposed the removal of shark nets and a roll out of non-lethal shark detection methods such as spotters, drones and observation towers.

The plan has been slammed by both Labor and the coalition as well as Don Munro, President of the Lennox Head Board Riders Club who told media The Greens plan was 'callous'.

"The Greens recognise the immense impact to individuals, families and communities from shark bites. It is understandable that these events generate fear and a desire to do something to keep people safe."

But Mr Field said: "It's all about taking a scientific approach. People should go into this with eyes wide open."

While there has been 13 attacks off the un-netted North Coast since January 2015, Mr Field said shark nets give a false sense of security.

"The truth about the nets between Newcastle and Wollongong is, yes, there have been no fatalities.

"But there has been a lot of bites. Over 32 in the last 20 years on those netted beaches.

"The reason why there has been no fatalities at netted beaches is because those beaches have been patrolled."

Mr Field, who launched his plan in the safety of a Sydney aquarium, said he was keen to come up and talk to people who have been impacted next week.

"We need the full picture of what is going on. We know traditional nets have had a significant impact on marine life across the Wollongong to Newcastle area and I understand the DPI's advice to government is that dozens of dolphins will be caught in nets if they get rolled out."

"The government commissioned a report for the shark summit last year and pointed to shark spotting programs as one of the most effective ways of reducing bites."

"It's about giving agency to local communities to be part of the solution and this is the recommended solutions."

The Greens plan includes funding shark spotting programs across 50 beaches at a cost of $750,000.

He said the shark spotting program on five North Coast beaches could start as soon as this summer, with no need for the introduction of nets.



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