What next in the pursuit of keeping our beaches shark safe?
WITH the threat of future shark attacks still hanging over North Coast beaches and the failure of eco-barriers to mitigate the risks, The Northern Star looks more closely at what possible solutions are still on the table.
The state government responded quickly after the most recent attack on 17 year old Cooper Allen by promising 100 drum lines along the NSW coast.
NSW and Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair has promised 85 more of the drum lines, added to the existing 15, with the focus on our local beaches on the Northern Rivers.
Smart drumlines are baited hooks attached to buoys and work by sending alerts once a shark is hooked.
Authorities can then going out to tag the animal.
Dr Daniel Bucher, senior lecturer at the Marine Ecology Research Centre at Southern Cross University in Lismore said drum lines may not be that effective.
"Drum lines are quite a distance off the beach, perhaps over a kilometre away,” he said.
"So (sharks caught on them are) not an immediate danger to people in the area.”
Dr Bucher said he is against killing a native animal in its natural habitat solely for recreational pursuits, regardless of petitions on social media calling for a shark cull.
"A one off cull is definitely not going to work,” he said.
"Tagging programs show us there is a progression of different animals moving through the area.
"There is not a local population as such.”
Dr Bucher said animals that are here this week, won't be the same ones next week.
"20 or 30 years ago there were far more sharks than there are today,” he said.
"That's why they are endangered and even though there has been a slight turn around in numbers, it will take some time before we reach the same numbers.”
Despite offers from the Queensland state government to share their shark net technology Dr Bucher said this solution was still a problem.
"(Shark) nets in Sydney and on the Gold Coast are still killing sharks,” he said.
"There are still sharks that get through those barriers, as has happened in Bondi - a netted beach - where it has had to be evacuated.”
Patrols and drones
There have been no fatalities in netted and non-netted beaches between the flags of patrolled beaches during patrolling hours, according to Dr Bucher.
"While there are eyes on the beach, people are safe,” he said.
"Observation of the beach is a key one.”
While the tagging shark program is for scientific research to watch the behaviour of sharks, warnings from them have become a side benefit.
"This is not their main function and will only ever apply to a small proportion of the shark population,” Dr Bucher said.
"Listening stations pick up a 500 metre radius and are 500 metres off shore, so a shark may be a kilometre away and not necessarily a danger.”
Personal shields like the patented product, Shark Shield, has shown a substantial reduction in shark attacks, according to Dr Bucher.
"It will protect a surfer whether all other protections are or aren't in place,” he said.
"It's a device that creates an electromagnetic field interfering with (the shark's) senses.
"It sends out a really strong signal, kind of like a loud noise or bright light, which is uncomfortable for the shark.”