The State Government‚Äôs continued resistance to new shark mitigation technology has been labelled ‚Äúabsolutely stupid‚ÄĚ by the mayor of a NSW town who believes smart drum lines have saved his community.
The criticism came as the NSW Government released the latest promising data about the ‚Äúcatch, tag and release‚ÄĚ program introduced after several people were killed and seriously injured in shark attacks.
‚ÄúYou‚Äôre absolutely stupid if you don‚Äôt go for smart drum lines,‚ÄĚ Ballina mayor David Wright said. ‚ÄúThey work.‚ÄĚ
Since December 2016, more than 370 great white, tiger or bull sharks have been caught and tagged along the northern NSW coast. One shark died. Ten were caught twice.
But Premier Mark McGowan and Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly have questioned the value of the drum lines, arguing they are expensive and do not guarantee the sharks stay away.
The Weekend West spent yesterday on the vessel that deploys 35 baited drum lines fitted with satellite technology, which triggers an alert to a response team when a shark is hooked.
Cr Wright said there had not been a serious shark incident along the coast since the smart drum line trials began and that NSW now had the largest tagging program in the world.
‚ÄúI can‚Äôt understand why they‚Äôd be against something that doesn‚Äôt hurt the shark and provides so much information for the community,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúYou‚Äôre about to lose the Margaret River Pro because of sharks and other tourism-related events have been cancelled because of the threat. What price do you put on tourism and the economy?‚ÄĚ
NSW Primary Industry Minister Niall Blair has offered to give smart drum lines to the McGowan Government for a trial but the offer was rebuffed.
In Ballina to announce the latest trial results, Mr Blair repeated the offer. ‚ÄúThe difference between NSW and WA is that we‚Äôve been willing to step outside of the box,‚ÄĚ Mr Blair said.
Mr McGowan was also sceptical of a report prepared by Federal Fisheries Minister Josh Frydenberg that offered WA a blueprint for rolling out 180 smart drum lines along 260km of coast between Quinns Rocks and Margaret River. He said the science was inconclusive.
The Weekend West understands the State Government is working on extra shark mitigation strategies around the use of shark detector beacons that pick up the signal of a tagged shark and relay it to the public.
Cr Wright said Ballina and surrounding towns had gone from no-go zones to hosting the largest junior surfing competition in the world.