CAUGHT: Tampering with shark nets can land you a big fine.
CAUGHT: Tampering with shark nets can land you a big fine. Contributed

$22,000 fine for 'curious' shark net activists

CURIOUS about the new shark nets off North Coast beaches? Fines for interference have been bumped up to $22,000 and it may be worth checking the fine print.

Anyone caught damaging, harming, destroying, moving, climbing or holding onto shark nets - or any other equipment used in official shark management strategies - may be fined up to 200 penalty points in court.

NSW penalty points were worth $110 each at time of publication, meaning fines for interference with shark nets could be $22,000.

Police and Fisheries Officers have also been given the option to issue on-the-spot fines of up to $1000.

The penalty was listed in a November 16 update to the NSW Fisheries Management Act 1994 called Schedule 6D: Shark management trials that is valid for five years.

Meddling with shark nets further south warranted a $5500 fine, according to a spokeswoman for DPI Minister Niall Blair.

"People should not swim near the nets, nor handle or otherwise interfere with the nets due to the risk of injury or underwater entanglement," stated information on the DPI web site.

"It is an offence to interfere with, vandalise, or otherwise make the nets in any way ineffective or inoperable and currently carries a maximum penalty of $5500."

Mr Blair's spokeswoman said: "The new interference offence was designed to deter people from interfering with shark management measures used under a trial for any reason, including disentangling fish and wildlife that may be caught in or by a measure."

Activists from marine conservation group Sea Shepherd took jet skis and divers to inspect shark nets in Ballina on Sunday and told DPI authorities they will continue checking nets and monitoring official responses to netted wildlife throughout the net trial.

Surf life saver volunteers told the activists they had entered an "exclusion zone" but the minister's spokeswoman confirmed there were none.