Shark nets fitted with technology to detect marine life have been deployed off the NSW North Coast for the first time in history, in response to the community outcry for traditional nets following a spate of shark attacks.
NSW Premier Mike Baird visited Ballina today to meet with community groups, surfers and business owners, before watching the installation of the traditional mesh nets that are fitted with dolphin pingers and whale alarms off Lighthouse Beach at Ballina.
“We are responding to a big shift in community support in favour of nets so they will be trialled off five North Coast beaches over the next six months,” Mr Baird said.
“While we must protect human lives above all else, we will continue to look at innovative ways to protect swimmers and surfers while also protecting marine life, as part of our $16 million shark strategy.”
The nets are similar to the ones deployed between Newcastle and Wollongong since 1937. The same technology used in the NSW Government’s successful trial of smart drumlines will be attached to the nets to alert authorities of any entanglements.
The Department of Primary Industries (DPI) will oversee initial testing before the broader six-month net trial gets underway, in time for the school holidays in December.
The community informed the decision-making process regarding locations and the nets will be trialled at Lighthouse Beach, Sharpes Beach and Shelly Beach at Ballina, Seven Mile Beach at Lennox Head and Evans Head Beach.
“These beaches received strong support during recent phone and online surveys, which showed 54 per cent of residents supported the trial compared to 12 per cent against,” Mr Baird said.
“These nets will complement the Government’s $16 million shark strategy, which is leading the world in testing new technologies, including drones, listening stations and sonar technology, to better protect swimmers.”
The mesh nets will be regularly checked by the contractor. DPI observers will be on board the contractor vessels overseeing the deployment and checking of nets, and will record details of any bycatch during the six month trial.