EYE IN THE SKY: Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair watching an aerial drone trial over Lighthouse Beach in Ballina.
EYE IN THE SKY: Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair watching an aerial drone trial over Lighthouse Beach in Ballina. Leah White

Niall Blair: Shark culling not an option

CALLS for shark culling on the North Coast have been ruled out, according to Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair.

He met with key community stakeholders in Ballina yesterday to discuss shark mitigation strategies.

"We don't have the approval to cull great white sharks here in New South Wales, they're a protected species," Mr Blair said.

Shark nets, on the other hand, were not completely ruled out, but Mr Blair said the government would need the full support of the community before it would consider nets as an option.

"The issue of shark nets was something that was raised in the meeting today," he said. "It's clear that even in the meeting of around 20 people the room was divided. We would need to get community support and then go through the necessary approval process, which could take some time.

"With an issue like nets ... community support is vital for something that is as controversial as this.

"At the moment we think that our SMART drumlines are a good, immediate measure that we have in the water that can be picking up any sharks in the area and then we can relocate those sharks."

When asked if the government would consider subsidising electronic shark shields for surfers, Mr Blair said the $16 million shark management strategy was for technology development and didn't include individual subsidies for technologies.

Stage three of the State Government's drone trials will launch today at Lighthouse Beach, Lennox Head and Evans Head, after being trialled in other parts of the state, including Byron Bay.

The trials will use private contractors, who are all experienced CASA-certified pilots, to fly the drones from headland vantage points for one house in the morning every Thursday, Friday and Sunday until mid-December.

The drones will fly a 3.5-4km circuit over the ocean at a height of 60m and speed of 40km per hour, with an on-board camera providing real-time vision of coastal waters.

Beach authorities will be advised if a shark is spotted close to people, with an air horn or siren sounded.

Key strategies

  • Eight extra SMART drumlines were deployed this week from Ballina to Lennox Head, including at Lighthouse Beach
  • Three aerial surveillance flights every day of the school holidays, weather permitting, from Lennox Head to South Ballina
  • VR4G listening stations are in place on the North Coast at Clarkes Beach, Byron Bay, Sharpes Beach, Skennars Head, Evans Head and Yamba, with VR4Gs at Lennox Head and Kingscliff in the process of being replaced following storm damage.


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