Plans for shark nets on the North Coast have been opposed by some people in the area.
Plans for shark nets on the North Coast have been opposed by some people in the area. Hamish Broome

National inquiry into shark mitigation measures

SENATORS have voted for a national inquiry into shark mitigation strategies, just as the NSW government was due to start its shark net trial on the North Coast.

During the last week of national parliamentary and senate sittings for 2016, most politicians were busy negotiating over the backpacker tax.

But avid surfer and lover of marine wildlife, Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, managed to get the support he needed for a national inquiry into sharks mitigation strategies.

The Greens Senator will likely head the Senate Environment and Communications References Committee inquiry, due for report by end of June 2017, said a spokesman this week.

The spokesman said the senator from Tasmania would also probably volunteer to head to the NSW Far North Coast early next year for a hearing on the six-month shark net trial before inquiry submissions were due on March 3.

"Peter has been to Ballina before, he was actually one of the first surfers back in the water after a shark attack there last year,” said the spokesman.

Information on the senate website stated that the inquiry would examine:

  • research into shark numbers, behaviour and habitat;
  • the regulation of mitigation and deterrent measures under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, including exemptions from a controlled action under section 158;
  • the range of mitigation and deterrent measures currently in use;
  • emerging mitigation and deterrent measures;
  • bycatch from mitigation and deterrent measures;
  • alternatives to currently employed mitigation and deterrent measures, including education;
  • the impact of shark attacks on tourism and related industries; and
  • any other relevant matters

NSW shark encounters: a national emergency?

Senator Whish-Wilson has consistently criticised Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg's approval of the shark net trial, saying he "shouldn't be claiming a national interest exemption over bad polling of his Liberal counterpart”.

"The Environment Minister is misusing a clause in [federal environmental law] that exists to allow communities to respond to national emergencies like bushfires, wars and floods without seeking approval if there might be interactions with endangered species,” he said.

"Claiming there is a sudden emergency where you don't have time to conduct a proper environmental assessment of rolling out shark nets makes a mockery of Australia's environment laws.

"The only sudden emergency is the freefall in Mike Baird's public support.

"If the exemption is being used this time because of bad headlines over shark interactions, what is to stop the Minister using the exemption for coal mines or dredging on the Great Barrier Reef?”

The Senator's spokesman said the inquiry would include two other hearings: one into shark mitigation strategies used in Queensland and another on shark cullings in Western Australia.

The announcement coincided with official publication of Minister Frydenberg's November 16 reasons for giving special legal exemption to the North Coast shark net trial.

In his signed statement, Minister Frydenbeg said his approval was "based on the economic information outlined in the application” from the NSW Department of Primary Industries.

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