A sign at Lighthouse Beach, Ballina, advising of the shark net trial.
A sign at Lighthouse Beach, Ballina, advising of the shark net trial. Graham Broadhead

Shark nets 'definitely in the water': DPI

UPDATE, 5.50pm: SHARK nets are definitely in the water at all five beaches included in the far north coast shark net trial, a DPI spokeswoman has confirmed.

The department has announced drop in sessions at Lennox Head (Friday December 9) and Evans Head Surf Life Saving Clubs (Saturday December 10) from 8-10am for anyone wanting to discuss the trial.

Installation of the nets began Thursday morning in time for summer school holidays but concerned readers contacted The Northern Star throughout the day saying they were not convinced because they couldn't see the nets from the beach.

"During the trial, signs will be posted at beaches to inform swimmers when a net is in the water offshore," said a spokeswoman for Premier Mike Baird.

"They will be in the water every day, weather permitting.

"They may need to be removed ahead of forecast bad weather and rough seas due to the potential for nets to become tangled, or wash away."

Information on the DPI web site stated nets would be placed "generally parallel to the beach near surf clubs and patrolled swimming areas".

Nets will usually be placed 500 - 650 metres off-shore and will be marked by four or five yellow buoys, a department spokeswoman said.

Department spokespeople have repeatedly said that the nets are not barriers and do not stretch from point to point.

"They are designed to reduce the likelihood of shark interactions by catching large, potentially dangerous sharks aggregating near the netted beach," stated information on the department web site.

UPDATE, 4.15pm: Greenpeace has accused the Australian and NSW Governments of "indiscriminately killing our marine life" on the North Coast.

Campaigner Alix Foster said there was "no strong evidence that nets are truly effective at preventing shark encounters".

"It's heart-breaking to think of the dolphins, turtles, rays and sharks that will be killed during the trial," she said.

"Nets are not the answer.

"There are non-lethal solutions that protect all forms of life, such as 'eco-mesh' barriers and shark spotting programs - just like in Byron Bay and Cape Town."

"When Western Australia trialled nets and drum-lines in 2014, people told their friends, family and coworkers, and together they convinced the government to stop the experiment.

"The ocean-lovers of New South Wales can do the same."


UPDATE, 11.45am: A 3.5 metre white shark was swimming at Lennox Head as preparations were under way for a shark net installation this morning.

Ballina Mayor David Wright said he drove to all four netted beaches in his shire as soon as heard anecdotal reports of the roll-outs.

Neither Cr Wright nor Ballina MP Tamara Smith had received official advice from the Department of Primary Industries of the installation in real time.

A spokeswoman for Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair later said that nets were being deployed at Evans Head, Lennox Head and Lighthouse, Sharpes and Shelly Beaches in Ballina.

Cr Wright said he saw two boats in the water at Lennox Head that he recognised as belonging to the DPI but the only buoys he could see were orange drum line buoys.

"I expected to see the bright yellow buoys but it looks like the drum lines are out there with the nets," he said.

"The beach was closed while the people who installed the eco barrier earlier this year used divers and a big crane to remove a 2.5 tonne concrete block ready for the shark net.

"Their drone operator spotted and followed 3.5 metre great white.

"The shark was close to the divers in low tide and it would've gone past a whole heap of surfers on the way north afterwards."

Cr Wright said he then went to Sharpes and Shelly Beaches but couldn't see anything before going to Lighthouse Beach.

"The DPI had a display tent and I spoke to the lady there, she said the nets had already gone in," he said.

"Channel 7 were out there in a boat."

On Wednesday The Northern Star contacted the DPI to find out when shark nets would be installed but did not receive a reply.


ORIGINAL STORY: FIVE shark nets have today been installed on the North Coast.

A spokesperson for Primary Industries, Lands and Water Minister Niall Blair said the nets were being deployed at Evans Head, Lighthouse, Sharpes and Shelly beaches in Ballina, and Lennox Head.

"The NSW Government is committed to ensuring the North Coast Shark Net Trial provides an effective means to test the nets over a six month basis commencing this summer," the spokesperson said.

"A range of measures have been introduced to reduce the loss of life of non-target marine animals becoming entangled in the nets.

"Further details will be provided once successful installation is complete."