Eco Shark Barrier set up in Coogee, Western Australia. Photo: Natalie BanksEco Shark Barrier set up in Coogee, Western Australia. Photo: Natalie BanksIn October 2015, the New South Wales Government's Department of Primary Industries unveiled their $16 million shark management strategy to be allocated over a five year duration. This was to include a combination of technologies to be trialled at various locations along the NSW coastline from Sydney north to the border with Queensland. This strategy is overseen by Department of Primary Industries -Fisheries who also oversee the NSW Shark Meshing Program.

On numerous occasions whether at the 2015 Shark Summit or via media sources, the Minister for Primary Industries, Hon. Niall Blair has repeatedly stated that there would be communication and transparency around future technology trials and this strategy not just with stakeholders but also with the general public.

As it stands, there has been no significant liaison with stakeholders since the summit nor has there been a noticeable amount of transparency with the general public as to how the trials are proceeding and the results thus far. Millions of tax payers' dollars are being spent all in the name of public safety but no one is really sure if they are achieving anything. There has been also no reporting on how much money has been spent so far and where that money has been allocated.

Furthermore, there has been no indication of how DPI Fisheries are measuring the success of each technology trial. No standards or criteria have been released including for the controversial "Smart Drum Lines". For Minister Blair to declare publicly "To catch four sharks in two days shows this has been a successful trial and something we'll continue to refine." (ABC, 2nd June 2016) shows how very little his department care about reassuring the public that what they are doing will yield measurable results which translate to public safety.

Smart drum line in Ballina. Photo: Kylie MaguireSmart drum line in Ballina. Photo: Kylie MaguireSea Shepherd Australia, along with numerous stakeholders from NSW from lifesaving groups, scientists, non government organisations and shark incident survivors specifically requested that DPI Fisheries was transparent throughout the whole 5 year process so the public would know what was taking place and have faith real actions were being taken rather than stop gap measures. Largely, they have chosen to ignore the stakeholders request.

The NSW general public deserve better, particularly the communities on the Far North Coast who have experienced several human-shark interactions over the past two years. For the most part, these communities have still been left in the dark with minimal or virtually no adequate consultation. An example of this is the pending installation of the Eco Shark Barrier in Ballina. Community anger spilled over and protests were held by local board riders due to no consultation given. The barrier was to be installed within the wave break which does not reflect who the barrier is supposed to protect which is bathers not surfers. Presently, the barrier has still not been installed despite numerous comments by the Ballina Mayor David Wright that it would be installed by April 2016.

Sea Shepherd Australia calls upon Minister Blair and DPI Fisheries to cooperate with stakeholders and the general public by being fully transparent regarding the shark management strategy if they want to reassure the public that all is being done and explored to protect ocean users and minimise impact on marine wildlife. Local communities deserve full consultation on these new technologies so they may be trialled and implemented successfully for the benefit of ocean users.

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