Male Sea LionSea Shepherd's Apex Harmony crew finds a dead sting ray caught in shark nets in
New South Wales in 2017 (Photo Credit: Sea Shepherd).

New South Wales Department of Primary Industry is genuinely looking for as many respondents as possible and this includes visitors to the region. 

We urge any of you who visit the Northern NSW area including Evans Head, Ballina, Lennox and Byron to respond to the survey. 

The survey concludes this Friday, May 18 at 5pm:

Sea Shepherd's Apex Harmony Campaign has been active since 2015 in the Ballina area bringing transparency to the NSW Government's shark bite mitigation practices. 

Whilst we do not wish to direct people to respond in a specific way, we would like to assist with some pertinent information for consideration when you respond to the survey.

The following are the key survey questions with some guiding information (as numbered in the survey):

5. How concerned are you about the risk of shark bite to YOURSELF, your FAMILY, and the WIDER COMMUNITY on the North Coast?

PLEASE CONSIDER the small likelihood of a negative shark encounter and the very low risk should you take sensible steps to swim at patrolled beaches and be aware of situations that might increase the risk of a negative shark encounter.

Please carefully consider the 'Shark Net Trial facts' provided by NSW DPI for Questions 7-8.

Sea Shepherd points out that the changes to net operation and design (in point 3 of the DPI table) did not result in any reduction in bycatch.

Very very few (less than 3% of the catch) were targeted shark species.

7. How do you think the second trial nets affected YOU, you FAMILY and the WIDER COMMUNITY?

SEA SHEPHERD contends that the second shark net trial was implemented despite data from the first trial demonstrating unequivocally that it was a failure.

Despite the fact that killing sharks DOES NOT MAKE BEACHES SAFER and has never been shown to anywhere in the world, the NSW Government went ahead with a second trial with the backing of a complicit Federal Environment minister.

The survey from the first net trial also showed that there was only very limited support from a specific section of the community that was effectively calling for a cull of sharks.

8. Shark nets catch animals other than sharks. During the most recent trial a total of 143 non-target animals (bycatch) were caught in the nets, these included: 107 rays, 23 sharks, 8 turtles, 4 dolphins and 1 fish. 60% of non-target animals were released alive and 40% died.*

In the overall context of using shark nets, do you think this level of by catch is acceptable or unacceptable?

SEA SHEPHERD points out that 97% of the catch in the shark nets was unintended bycatch including dolphins, turtles and many rays.

10. How safe do you feel for YOURSELF, your FAMILY and the WIDER COMMUNITY at beaches with SMART drumlines?

SEA SHEPHERD contends that even the name SMART is deliberately misleading - the acronym is designed to engender a feeling that they are somehow better than alternatives. SMART = 'Shark-Management-Alert-in-Real-Time'

Essentially, these drumlines are a science device for the catching and tagging of sharks for research and yet the DPI has deliberately placed them off patrolled swimming beaches.

If the purpose of these drumlines was genuinely for the catching and tagging of sharks for tracking, then it would be unnecessary to centre their placement on swimming beaches.

It seems their placement is to engender a feeling of safety… that something was being done by government to catch sharks and hence make beaches safer. This is counterproductive as nowhere in the world can it be shown that these devices make beaches safer.

It can only be shown that they catch sharks and do so with less bycatch than nets.

Many surfers to whom we have spoken are deeply concerned at the placement of baited hooks right by the surf breaks.

Drumlines do not make beaches safer. LIFESAVERS do.

11. Is there anything in particular you like about the use of SMART drumlines?

SEA SHEPHERD contends that SMART drumlines may have some use as a device to assist scientists catch, tag and release sharks for tracking.

They are not in themselves a device that provides for safety of beach users.

12. Do you have any concerns about the use of SMART drumlines?

SMART DRUMLINES do have a far better record of effectively targeting sharks however are indiscriminate within shark species.

As a consequence, they catch certain species such as hammerheads and grey nurses that are highly susceptible to dying as a result just from being hooked.

Data has not been made easily accessible to the public that demonstrates the survival of hooked hammerheads and grey nurses.

13. To what extent do you support or oppose the following measure to reduce the risk of shark bites on the North Coast?

SEA SHEPHERD strongly supports non-lethal measures such as:

  • Drones
  • Shark Spotting
  • Sonar Technology
  • Active Shark Deterrents such as Shark Shield
  • Listening Stations (as long as the apps are greatly improved)
  • Research
  • Education programs and
  • measures that assist people to take personal responsibility with well informed decisions and equipment such as BEN signs

Sea Shepherd entirely rejects shark nets.

14. Have the measures trialed over the past two years to reduce the risk of shark bite made you feel safer?

THIS IS the key question that the Minister seems to have used to allow the 2nd trial. Implementation was on the basis of community members FEELING safer.

SEA SHEPHERD urges respondents to consider NSW DPI's emphasis on shark nets especially knowing that they were going to have a devastating impact on the local marine environment through bycatch. The nets have proved ineffective even at catching target sharks. 

SMART drumlines are not a safety device and yet were deployed in a way to portray them as such.

The use of drones has not been funded to a degree that they ought to have been.

There has been no emphasis on genuine public education programs and no advocacy for informing people in a way that they can be assisted to make appropriate decisions at the beach. 

15. Do you have any final comments about anything covered in this survey?

SEA SHEPHERD points out that the NSW Government have largely ignored their own CARDNO Review and entirely ignored the recent Senate Inquiry. This amounts to a waste of public money and worthwhile examinations of scientific and public opinion.

NSW DPI has a poor track record of releasing animals caught in the nets even when informed of animals that ought to have been released.

The Fauna Disentanglement Plan was deficient in that it ignored animals other than those that assumedly the DPI thought the public would care about, being air breathing animals only.

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