In a partnership between Sea Shepherd, Byron Shire Council and the Member for Ballina Tamara Smith MLA, a feasibility study for shark spotting will take place at Wategos Beach after Mayor Simon Richardson successful moved a Mayoral Minute to support it at last weeks Council meeting. 

The trial will be carried out by members of Sea Shepherd and will determine whether the location and spotting abilities at Wategos Beach are suitable for a longer term shark spotting program, paying attention to the impact of morning and afternoon glare, spotting distance from water, changes in visibility in differing weather conditions and levels of water user activity at different times of the day.

Funding for the trial is being provided equally by Byron Council and Tamara Smith, MLA.

The shark spotting sign and flag, depicting that shark spotters are on duty in Cape Town, South AfricaThe shark spotting sign and flag, depicting that shark spotters are on duty in Cape Town, South Africa

“It’s great to be able to support an initiative that provides extra security and safety for locals and visitors, whilst also ensuring there are no negative impacts on the marine life, including sharks. We were focused on community led, scientifically robust and effective measures to protect our marine environment and ocean goers-and it’s great to be a part of an innovative, intelligent and inspiring solution” Mayor Richardson said.

Tamara Smith, MLA for Ballina, the NSW Greens spokesperson for Marine and Fisheries and a member of  government's recent Shark Inquiry said:

"The Cardno Review recommended shark spotting as the best response to shark encounters and an ideal non-lethal shark mitigation strategy yet the government has not explored it as an option in NSW. I was lucky to hang out with the Shark Spotters from Cape Town a few months ago and I was incredibly impressed and persuaded by their 13 year track record of safety for ocean users in Cape Town. I am also very persuaded that paid, professional shark spotters are intrinsic to the program. I am thrilled to partner with Sea Shepherd and Byron council to fund a feasibility study at Wategos."

National Shark Campaign Coordinator for Sea Shepherd Australia, Natalie Banks stated: 

“The fact that this study was unanimously approved by the Byron Bay Council shows the progressive and forward-thinking manner of the full council, which hasn’t rested on their laurels waiting for a solution from the State Government to be brought forward, but is looking outside the box for real solutions for their community. At a time when northern NSW is looking for solutions to shark mitigation in the region, I am personally proud to be a part of offering the community scientific and proven solutions that could potentially be the way forward for Byron Bay,” 

Shark spotters in Cape Town, South Africa assisted Sea Shepherd with advice on starting the trial. Photo:Sean GeerShark spotters in Cape Town, South Africa assisted Sea Shepherd with advice on starting the trial. Photo: Sean Geer

Background Information

Developed by the Sea Shepherd organisation, the trial responds to the State Government’s independent assessment of current shark mitigation strategies undertaken by Cardno. This assessment identified a Shark Spotting program, currently used in Cape Town, South Africa as the highest ranked solution and the only program to meet eight assessment criteria in that it offers a whole-of-beach solution, does not pose risks to humans or wildlife, would be suitable to NSW beaches, has been tested on white sharks (and a variety of other shark species), that results have been peer reviewed, and costs for the program are low.

The scoping study proposes to provide independent feedback on the abilities and limitations of a more permanent Shark Spotting program at this location.

The study aims to:

  • determine whether the location and spotting abilities are suitable for a longer term shark spotting program, paying attention to the impact of morning and afternoon glare, spotting distance from water users to ensure an early warning service can be provided, changes in visibility in differing weather conditions with particular emphasis on prevailing winds and currents and levels of water user activity at different times of the day
  • advise the number of sharks spotted in comparison to current methods as well as other marine life (e.g. dolphins or school fish) identified during that time
  • identify key issues, constraints and opportunities relating to a more permanent shark spotting trial or program at Wategos Beach, including best vantage point, practicality and extent of Council Authority to implement, key stakeholder attitudes and likelihood of community acceptance
  • develop a report that provides recommendations for a shark spotting solution, with an assessment of limitations and how best to overcome them
  • share information with key stakeholders such as local and state government agencies, scientists and other not-for-profits working on marine wildlife surveys The study will also:
  • identify avenues to advise the local communities of shark bite mitigation identify local groups that would be interested in working alongside a Shark Spotting program
  • identify gaps in current shark mitigation strategies within the local region
  • identify response to alarm (if required) by local beach goers
  • utilise procedures already in place by Shark Spotters in Cape Town and tailor them to local

 

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