The NSW Government has taken a step back in time as three environmental protection acts are attacked in an effort to take NSW back into the 1930’s and remove the safeguards put in place to protect human life, marine animals and native flora. Given our dependence on nature for our survival, protecting our environment, is protecting human life.

On November 9th, Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Minister Niall Blair introduced a motion to repel the Biodiversity Conservation Bill, the Native Vegetation Act and amend the Fisheries Management Act.

This backflip on policy by Mike Baird’s NSW Government who stated back in 2015 that shark nets and drum lines are not an option they would consider, will result in the loss of native vegetation, marine life and through the false sense of security created by shark nets, will lead to a “diminished watchfulness and possibly tragedy”, as stated by former NSW Premier, McKell.

Shark nets, relics from a bygone era, are scheduled to be deployed off five beaches on the Northern NSW Coast this summer - Lighthouse Beach, Sharpes Beach and Shelly Beach at Ballina, Seven Mile Beach at Lennox Head and Evans Head Beach.

Human Life at Risk with Shark Nets

This decision has been slammed by Sea Shepherd’s Apex Harmony Coordinator Chris Lindgren.

“Shark nets are a technology from the 1930’s and which have no proven record of providing protection to ocean users, infact over the past 10 years there have been 19 unwanted shark encounters at beaches with nets and drumlines in Australia. We now live in the 21st century where proven, non-lethal, technologies are available to further reduce the already very low risk of shark encounter on our beaches. Not only will these shark nets not work, they will be responsible for providing a false sense of security to beach goers this summer and endanger human life, let alone the lives of the marine life in the area which will become entangled within”.

Endangered Species on IUCN Red List to be caught and killed

It’s not just human life which is at risk due to this archaic decision by the NSW Government, the local marine life which plays a huge roll in tourism in the area is also at risk, including the resident Richmond River dolphins, migratory mantra rays and other species which bring tourism to the area. Shark netting and drum lines have been responsible for the entrapment of over 85,000 marine animals, many of which are IUCN endangered species, since they were installed in NSW and QLD last century.

Whale in shark net. Photo: Sea Shepherd Australia

Sea Shepherd’s NSW Apex Harmony Coordinator Allyson Jennings says.

“Ballina, like nearby Byron is an aquatic paradise for all those who seek to enjoy the water but also the incredible diversity of life which exists in the ocean. Ballina is home to a large resident pod of approximately 60 dolphins, which will suffer high fatality numbers as a result of the meshing. NSW DPI’s own Chief Shark Scientist Vic Peddemors stated in that at least 20 dolphins would be killed within weeks of the nets being put in on the North Coast Dr Liz Hawkins from Dolphin Research Australia also said that Lighthouse Beach is an important area for local bottlenose mothers and calves to feed, rest and socialise and would be highly impacted with the installation of shark nets.”

DPI’s own FAQ and Survey at odds with Nets Implementation

A recent survey released by the DPI seems at odds with the proposal to install shark nets with their own Frequently Asked Questions indicating that not only do the shark nets provide no barrier bet

ween beach goers and sharks, they also endanger the marine life and admits that some will die as a result.

DPI’s Shark Net graphic shows that the nets do not provide a barrier to the top of the water, not do they have any sides back to the beach and are only 150m long!

The DPI Survey stated:

“Shark nets do not create an enclosed area, or provide a barrier between people and sharks!”

Shark net graphic updated Oct 2016

The DPI’s FAQ on Shark nets provides additional information condemning the nets regarding the safety of the resident dolphin population in the area;

“Nets will be fitted with the most sophisticated dolphin pingers available. However, even with the best available technology and regular checking, the nature of mesh nets means that some dolphins may be caught and killed.”

Alternative Solutions – Non Lethal Shark mitigation

Immediately next door to Ballina, in Byron Bay, where the most recent shark encounter occurred in October the council have taken a proactive step and not only have refused these lethal nets from being trailed on their beaches but have this week announced the launch of a community based, volunteer, shark watch program which uses teams of volunteers and UAV’s to provide surveillance of beaches and warn beach users of sharks in the water. This is a 21st technology which has 13 years of scientific study behind it based on the highly successful shark spotters program in South Africa.

Ballina Council would also understand this had they accepted a report from Sea Shepherd and Shark Spotters in May 2016, however the council voted to not even receive the report, provided free of charge, let alone read it!

Apex Harmony National Coordinator Chris Lindgren says:

“A few local surf shops and groups in the area also have a lot to answer for with their fear mongering amongst locals without any evidence that the nets provide safety. Any Surf shop owner with a successful business should be pushing and promoting technologies such as the Shark Shield which is peer reviewed and proven to work. DPI’s own Chief Shark Scientist Dr Vic Peddemores in a study conducted on the product over 10 years ago concluded that the use of a shark shield reduces the likelihood of shark encounter from an already low 0.80% to 0.07%. Priced at less than $1000 what price are people putting on their lives?

Jef Hansen Managing Director of Sea Shepherd Australia further states:

 “Any surfer calling for lethal shark mitigation is not a surfer, they have lost their connection to the ocean. The ocean is not a wave pool, it is a natural and wild marine environment and responsible and possible for our very existence on land. The arrogance of supporting lethal (false-sense) shark mitigation, is a complete disregard for our children’s future on this planet. This anthropocentric and idiotic mentality is the reason why our planet is in the state it is in today.”

Legal Ramifications?

With the above knowledge that the nets do not provide a barrier between ocean goers coming directly from DPI’s own website and their Chief Shark Scientist it is clear that it is negligent of the NSW Government to implement a solution which only provides a false sense of security to beach goers.  When a shark bite occurs on a beach with a net, the NSW Government will be entirely responsible for providing the dangerous situation to begin with

QLD Apex Harmony Coordinator, Jonathan Clark says:

“Will Baird and Blair accept responsibility when someone is bitten due to going into a dangerous situation with a false sense of security? Lots of people will be doing this over the School Holidays believing they have a barrier between themselves and the sharks, but we know this isn’t the case. We need to hold him directly responsible when it happens.”

Shark Net Rallies:

There are two large anti net rallies scheduled in NSW in the coming month, please see the image below for further information:

  • 27th November - Central Coast Rally - The Entrance Beach, The Entrance NSW - 11am
  • 4th December - Sydney Rally - Manly Beach, Manly, NSW - 1:30pm.

Shark Net Rally

It is clear that the NSW Government has continued to support the nets well knowing that it is highly likely that they will not stop another potential human-shark incident and are merely attempting to be seen to be doing something rather than considering the best and right options for ocean user safety.

To say that the NSW Government is doing something is like trying to lessen the road toll from drink driving, by increasing the allowable blood alcohol content. Yes, they are doing something, but they are making matters worse.

Sea Shepherd strongly condemns this decision and requests that the NSW Government reconsiders before it is too late to stop the loss of human life, environmental carnage and significant tourism impact which will follow once the nets are installed.

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