Friday, 21 October 2016

Say No To Shark Nets and watch turtle release at Lighthouse Beach, Ballina at 10am Sunday 23 October 2016

Shark nets are not the answer.
Fundamentally shark nets don't keep people safe and 80% of what they kill will be harmless to humans.
Proponents of shark nets will tell you that there have been no shark attacks at a netted beach in NSW since 1937. Wrong.
NSW Dept of Primary Industries report 27 attacks including one fatality at netted beaches.
Assoc Prof Laurie Laurenson of Deakin University studied 50 years of data from shark mitigation programs (culling and netting). He found no statistical difference in the rate of shark attack and the density of sharks in an area.
The only shark mitigation measure in the world that has proven to be 100% effective is the Shark Spotters program in Cape Town, South Africa. Eleven years and not a single attack, in a very popular beach area with an abundance of White Sharks.
Shark attack is an incredibly rare event. 6 people in a year across the entire planet died from sharks in 2015. Almost everything else you can think of kills more people. More people died taking selfies.
Over the years, I've done a fair number of media interviews. But I have experienced nothing even remotely close to the media feeding frenzy that follows a shark attack.
I was there the day Cooper Allen was bitten a few weeks ago. Even as he was carried down the beach toward the surf club it was clear he would be OK. But still, within an hour, every major news outlet in the country was on the beach, posting hourly updates, gathering enough footage to lead the evening news bulletin. Totally out of proportion to what had actually just occurred.
There is no doubt our community is spooked. There is a genuine fear among our surfers. I regularly hear, "but something must be done". I agree.
We cannot ignore the impact on our community, on the town's reputation, on our tourism and hospitality industries which contribute so much to our local economy.
But we need to look at what hasn't been done yet and what might actually work.
Surf clubs have applied for funding for watch towers. A basic that has still not been funded.

A trial of paid professional shark spotters at Byron Bay was discontinued after no ongoing funding.

The Shark Watch group formed locally with no assistance from Council or the State Government. Specifically designed to keep watch on our surfers 
from headlands using volunteers and drones, the group is still waiting to hear on a funding application for $50,000 to provide equipment and training.
Where are the shark alarms we were promised?
Where are the shark bite first aid kits?
Why do we have a funding program for innovative responses, but the one company that has developed an effective deterrent, Shark Shield, is getting no assistance from government to get their product to market?
All of these things are far more effective in preventing shark attack than nets. But still we wait.
Shark nets are a fishing device, not a barrier. The nets in NSW are 150m long, 6m high and are placed in water 10-12m deep. As a fishing device they 
have the highest by-catch rate of any technique available.
I've spent the last 9 years of my life trying to protect and save our local sea turtle population through Australian Seabird Rescue. All species of sea turtle are at risk of extinction. Everything I've done will be wasted if we introduce shark nets. Quite simply the nets will kill more turtles than we have been able to save.
The 60 bottlenose dolphins that make up the Richmond River pod face decimation, with DPI staff estimating that up to 20 could be killed in the first few months of shark nets.
These are some of the reasons why I'll be joining my colleagues from Seabird Rescue at Lighthouse Beach at 10am this Sunday (23/10).
We'll be releasing Kimba the green sea turtle after 3 months in care. Back to the ocean, where the sharks also live. But the greatest threat to Kimba isn't sharks. It's humans.
Please join us in saying no to shark nets.
* Image from Facebook

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