This 2.32m male white shark was caught at Lennox Head Beach on August 4 on a drumline.
This 2.32m male white shark was caught at Lennox Head Beach on August 4 on a drumline. Contributed

Shark net decision is a 'hard call' for Minister

A DECISION on whether the shark nets will go back in the water will be made in a matter of weeks.

Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair was in Ballina yesterday to talk about results from a community feedback survey into the second shark net trial on the NSW North Coast.

The results showed that between 56 per cent and 66 per cent of residents in Ballina Shire and the Evans Head region opposed the use of shark nets in the area.

The survey was conducted via phone and online, and was conducted at the end of the second trial which saw the deaths of 58 marine animals.

Only 1 per cent of animals caught in the second trial were "target" species.

So far, three surveys have been conducted (before and at the end of the first trial and at the end of the second trial) and have shown a 28 per cent decline of a positive outlook on shark nets since from the first to the third survey.

Will the nets go back in?

Mr Blair said attitudes towards the nets had changed since the first trial.

"Community attitudes have moved right away from initial support for the nets to be around 50-50 for those that support and don't support which makes my job a little bit harder," he said.

"We now have some strong results coming out of our SMART drumlines which is something we didn't have before this trial and we can compare that to the data coming off the back of the net trial."

Mr Blair said he didn't want to make a decision before sitting down with the North Coast community and discussing the results.

"The data, the results and the community's attitude towards these measures are all the things we are going to take into consideration before we make a final decision.

"We know it's not one technology or solution that's going to make the difference, it's going to require a sweep.

"We will take the feedback from today, with the community survey results and data and make an informed decision in the near future."

Best solution on shark mitigation

Mr Blair said the NSW Government's shark tagging program was the largest in the world with 277 white sharks, 37 tiger sharks and 61 bull sharks being actively tracked by scientists.

He said shark tracking is giving scientists and beachgoers more insight than ever before into shark movements.

"We have been tagging sharks through our successful SMART drumline program for a couple of years now," he said.

"In two years, there have been more than 26,000 shark detections on these listening stations which have then been communicated to water users via the SharkSmart app."

Community survey results show support for SMART Drumlines

Parliamentary Secretary for Northern NSW, Ben Franklin said he did not support a third trial of the nets.

"The SMART drumlines have been working very efficiently and from my view when combined with the drones, helicopter surveillance and listening stations, that is something that is successful enough.

"Since there hasn't been attack in the past two years the issue of the bycatch now is something is too important to ignore.

"We know this has been a very divisive issue for locals and I have been working closely with the community to ensure we deliver the best outcome," Mr Franklin said.

Northern NSW lifeguard coordinator Scott McCartney said he would be confident in swimmers safety if nets were to stay out of the water.

"It took a bit of time for us to get the hang of it but at the moment we are really excited to incorporate drones as part of our work place," he said.

"The community as a whole has become a lot more educated and more confident on going in the water and relying on the mechanisms we have out there."