Tony Abbott believes shark nets should again be rolled out on North Coast beaches.
Tony Abbott believes shark nets should again be rolled out on North Coast beaches. Rick Rycroft

Tony Abbott calls for shark net return on North Coast

FORMER prime minister Tony Abbott says he sees no reason why shark nets were scrapped from North Coast beaches and believes they should be rolled out again.

Mr Abbott's calls are at odds with the decision last month of Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair not to conduct a third North Coast meshing trial, after results showed SMART drumlines were more effective in targeting dangerous sharks.

 

When diving in Lennox Head last week Sea Shepherd divers found a 1.5m Dusky Whaler shark, not long dead in the net. (Photo: Sea Shepherd Australia).
A Dusky Whaler shark caught in a net at Lennox Head.

But, speaking on 2GB radio yesterday, Mr Abbott said if shark nets were good enough for beaches in Sydney and surrounds, then they should be satisfactory for the North Coast.

"If the meshing nets, which have done such a great job off Wollongong, Sydney and Newcastle beaches for about 80 years are good for those beaches, let's see those meshing nets extend to the North Coast," Mr Abbott said.

Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair made the decision not to reinstate the nets - which are removed during winter for whale season - on the North Coast after research found the majority of the community didn't support them, and, they caught fewer targeted sharks than SMART drumlines.

 

Shark net protest
Anti-shark net protesters at Snapper Rocks earlier this year.

The nets also trapped and killed much more marine life - such as turtles and dolphins - than SMART drumlines.

"We're going off the numbers. The SMART drumlines have intercepted far many more target sharks than the nets," Mr Blair said last month after announcing the discontinuation of the meshing trial.

"You can never make the ocean 100 per cent safe. That is something that we acknowledge."

Meanwhile Nationals candidate for Ballina Ben Franklin challenged Mr Abbott's assertion, saying that North Coast beaches are different to those around Sydney, and thus need different protections.

 

Ben Franklin MLC has announced he hopes to run for the state seat of Ballina at the next election.
Nationals candidate for Ballina Ben Franklin said SMART drumline technology should continue to be prioritised shark nets. Marc Stapelberg

"We know how effective SMART drumlines have been along the North Coast," Mr Franklin said.

"They're not used in Sydney, maybe Mr Abbott doesn't know about them. But they are very effective up on the North Coast...We still have the option to put back the shark nets if there is a necessity to do so."

SMART drumlines comprise of an anchor and rope, two buoys, and a satellite-linked communications unit which is attached to a trace and baited hook. SMART drumlines are deployed approximately 500 metres offshore away from swimmers and surfers to allow sharks to be intercepted beyond the surf zone.

 

Shark Smart Drumline display in the Department of Primary Industry's information stall at the 2017 Love Lennox Festival.
Shark Smart Drumline display. Alina Rylko