Turtles, dolphins, stringrays and sharks will now roam free, following the New South Wales state government’s decision to remove shark nets in the Ballina region.
Written by Melissa Mackay
Produced for online by Annie Pullar
In six months just six target sharks, including two white, one bull and three tiger sharks, have been caught in five nets across Ballina, Lennox Head and Evans Head.
Yet more than 240 non-target animals have been captured in the nets, with only half released back into the wild alive.
The government is set to remove its controversial shark nets from waters off the north coast following the six-month trial that ends in June.
The trial of nets has been savaged by the Humane Society International Australia, which is calling for the end of the ‘lethal’ program.
Nearly 11 shark attacks have been reported in the Ballina area since 2014, with two of them resulting in death.
Humane Society head of campaigns Nicola Beynon,says this form of shark management is cruel and harmful to the environment.
“Ecologically (it’s) completely unsustainable and a major threat to already threatened species,” says Mrs Beynon.
Ballina Shire Mayor David Wright admits implementing shark nets may not have been the best option for keeping beaches safe, but says it certainly made tourists feel better about getting in the water.
“Christmas 2015 on average there was about 10 people in the water, they were only walking up to their knees, and then this Christmas just passed instead of being 10 or 20, some days there were over 1000 people,” says Cr Wright.
New South Wales State Greens MP Justin Field says, despite giving people a greater sense of security, the nets have been a complete failure.
“The nets have not been shown to capture target sharks, that was what they were put in to do, but they have killed hundreds of other marine animals,” says Mr Field.
Smart drumlines, which are designed to allow sharks to be tagged and released, are being tested as an alternative to the deadly shark nets.
Mr Field raised concerns about whale migrations, with reports humpbacks are already moving northward to warmer waters.
He says the upcoming whale migration could be in serious danger if the government does not move fast enough.
“Wouldn’t it be an absolute tragedy to lose one of our white whales in one of these shark nets, just because of the governments entrench,” says Mr Field.
Migration season will begin in the next few weeks.
The data from the trial will be analysed by Department of Primary Industries’ shark scientists and a community consultation group is set to discuss the outcomes of the trial.