One bite and all our beaches could be netted, Greens warn
THE Greens have warned an "open-ended" shark slaughter could occur if the government allows nets on five North Coast beaches.
The Baird Government has launched an urgent amendment to the Fisheries Management Act to allow the nets to be installed at Sharpes, Shelly and Lighthouse beaches near Ballina, Seven Mile Beach at Lennox Head and Main Beach at Evans Head.
It has Labor's backing, but upper house Greens MP Justin Field argued extending Byron Shire Council's volunteer-led Shark Watch program made more sense.
"I think we are going down a slippery slope," he warned.
"What will happen with the next bite? Will the nets just be expanded?
"This bill permits a trial, not just of shark mesh nets and not just on the North Coast, but of other measures to capture sharks.
"There is no limit on where this could go.
"One bite could be deemed by a minister to represent a significant risk to the safety of swimmers."
Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair said the nets would be fitted with whale alarms and dolphin "pingers" emitting frequencies known to deter marine mammals from coming close.
"In addition, a whale disentanglement plan will be developed, with qualified people identified to assist in any disentanglement," he said.
Anyone caught interfering with any shark management measure could receive a maximum $1000 fine, and the bill would expire after five years.
Labor's Penny Sharpe supported the bill but called for the public release of data to be made regularly.
"Will it be in real time? It is only a six-month trial but will it be every month?" she asked.
"I know that people on the North Coast are particularly attached to the dolphins that live in the Richmond River and they will want to know quickly whether any of them are getting caught in the nets."