Tweed has no need for shark nets says expert
ANOTHER shark attack on the North Coast has sparked fresh calls for the urgent installation of nets but Tweed Coast identities have called for calm in local waters.
A 36-year-old man was bitten on the upper thigh by a suspected great white shark while surfing at Broken Head, south of Byron Bay, on Monday.
It is the third attack in the region in less than five weeks and part of an alarming spike in shark maulings off North Coast beaches in recent months. Since February last year there have been five attacks along the Byron-Ballina stretch of coastline, including one fatal incident.
But while Ballina beaches are at risk of becoming no-go zones, Cabarita Boardriders president Scott King said Tweed Coast beaches have remained relatively incident free, ruling out any need for the controversial nets.
"Obviously we still have sharks here but nothing like what they are experiencing down there,” he said.
"Maybe we could be looking at shark monitoring but there is no need for netting. The circumstances are different up here.”
Kingscliff-based marine scientist Robert Slade, a member of Seaworld Research and Rescue Foundation's scientific advisory committee, said the evidence did not support the introduction of nets at Tweed Coast beaches.
There have been numerous shark sightings off Tweed Coast beaches in recent months and a man was knocked off his board by a three-metre shark while surfing at Casuarina in July, but there have been no reported attacks.
"We don't have the same issue that they have had from Byron south,” Dr Slade said.
"We have sharks but we haven't had any attacks.”
The nets, part of the government's $16 million Shark Management Strategy, have come under fire from Greens MPs, environmentalists and some locals who are opposed to nets, saying they harm other marine life, including dolphins.
"There are pros and cons,” Dr Slade said. "Nets are a passive form of culling. Not only do they take by-catch with dolphins and turtles but they also catch whales and that would be an issue here.
"But we're talking about people's lives. If I was down at Ballina, I would be leaning towards shark nets but I wouldn't be suggesting putting in nets on Tweed Coast beaches.”
Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair said government will introduce a Bill to the NSW Parliament in the last session this year to legalise a six-month trial of the nets, with deployment to occur immediately following its successful passage.
"We know that the North Coast community is suffering after an extraordinary run of shark attacks, that is why we have today announced that we will introduce legislation to the NSW Parliament, to get the nets in the water as soon as possible,” he said.
"No one measure can stop shark attacks but this trial of traditional nets will complement our existing $16 million Shark Management Strategy, and help reduce the risk of further attacks.”
The Shark Management System includes 'smart' drum lines, aerial surveillance while the Tweed is among those sites trialling a VR4G listening station.
The station is a satellite-linked receiver that detects tagged sharks swimming within 500m of the station and sends that information to the public and beach authorities via SMS and Twitter.
The nets, similar to those found at Gold Coast beaches, are expected to be rolled out by the end of the year with locations to be determined after community consultation
The latest attack came the morning after hundreds of people had gathered at Ballina to protest the planned installation of shark nets in the area.