People, not sharks, need the first priority.
People, not sharks, need the first priority. ScreenWest

Shark cage fight: For and against in the great white debate

Mark Furler says: LIVING on the Sunshine Coast, I cannot fathom the stupidity of anyone opposing shark nets.

People's lives must always come before those of sharks.

It's not like there is an extreme shortage of them after all.

And the evidence is super clear.

Your chances of being attacked by a shark on a beach with a net is pretty slim.

A week ago, the parents of a teenager killed by a bull shark at Ballina in 2008 joined calls for nets, drumlines and a cull of sharks.

Peter Edmonds, 16, was bodyboarding with a friend at Ballina's Lighthouse Beach when he was killed.

At the time, the attack was considered rare.

But eight years on, there have been far too many attacks and close calls on NSW beaches.

The NSW and federal governments have a clear duty of care.

They must put the wishes of fishermen, swimmers and surfers ahead of environmentalists.

NSW Premier Mike Baird has finally told parliament he would write to the Federal Government to ask for permission to install the nets where supposed eco-friendly alternatives had failed.

As Lisa and Neil Edmonds point out, WA, the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, and indeed Queensland have had a far more sensible approach to minimising shark encounters than NSW.

In Queensland, the system has been in place since 1962.

The equipment consists of drum lines and nets.

It is designed to catch sharks more than two metres long.

There has never been a fatal attack on a Queensland beach with shark control equipment in use.

While Queensland may be behind the times on other issues, when it comes to shark control, its decades ahead of NSW.

Lucy Trippett/Australian Marine Conservation Society

Seanna Cronin says: I UNDERSTAND people want to feel safe in the water, but there must be a better way to keep sharks and people away from each other at the beach than shark nets.

To say shark nets have been keeping Queenslanders safe for 70 years, is misleading.

There have been no fatalities at the beaches where these nets have been installed, but there are many other factors at play.

Our surf lifesaving services have also dramatically increased over that time, as have medical and surveillance services.

As any scientist will tell you, a correlation doesn't prove cause and effect.

Baird's backflip, not his first this week mind you, seems reactionary. I think we can work smarter in this area, rather than relying on an indiscriminate tool like a net, which kills whales, turtles and dolphins as well as sharks.

Drum lines are much more selective and the large shark tagging program in Western Australia shows real promise.

Sure not all of the eco-friendly alternatives trialed so far have worked, but they only way to find out if they work is to test them.

And unless you're willing to wrap thousands of kilometres of nets around Australia's coastline then you must accept some level of risk when you go into the ocean because it is, well, the ocean.

It's big and even on beaches where shark nets are installed they do not create an impenetrable barrier between a shark and a swimmer (a common myth).

As a scuba diver I've encountered many species of sharks, even the Great White, and I'm still in one piece.

But I accept the risks of the sport and do what I can to minimise them.

A day at the beach is part of the fabric of Australia, but why does it have to come at the expense of the health of our oceans?

Aussies are smart and this is our chance to be world leaders by coming up with a solution that works for us and the sharks.

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