UPDATE 10am: SHARK netting was in the water at Evans Head when a DPI drone alerted a life guard to the presence of a shark, a department spokesman has confirmed.
"A shark net was in the water off Evans Head surf club on Sunday, as part of the testing preceding the Government's trial of shark nets on the North Coast," said the spokesman.
"A contractor undertaking drone surveillance trials as part of the $16m NSW Shark Management Strategy reported a shark sighting at Evans Head on Sunday 20 November which was reported to surf livesavers who closed the beach.
"DPI staff also reported the sighting to the public via the NSWSharkSmart Twitter account and SharkSmart mobile app."
The DPI has been contacted for further comment on the exact location of the shark in relation to the net.
TUESDAY 5.30am: SHARK nets have not yet been installed on the NSW north coast, despite Premier Mike Baird's official launch of a six-month trial in Ballina in mid-November.
But when unconfirmed reports of shark sightings at beaches believed to have nets reached The Northern Star, a spokesman from the NSW Department of Primary Industries issued a clarification statement:
"The trial will begin in December to cover the summer and school holiday period.
"The trial will be preceded by proof of concept testing, which began at Lighthouse Beach on Friday 18 November.
"This will assess how easily and quickly the nets can be deployed and removed, how they operate in shallow waters, and the potential to use SMART technologies so that established practices can be set for each of the trial sites."
Was there a shark at Evans Head on Sunday?
Brody Aleckson, spokesman for the Halftide Boardriders, said the group decided to abandon a surf competition at Evans Head on Sunday after the beach was closed for about an hour around 10.45am.
Between 25-30 group members aged from six through to adults in their fifties had been at the beach since 7.30am when a life guard sounded a shark alarm.
Mr Aleckson said he understood a drone had alerted the life guard to a shark present at the southern end of the beach but the drone's battery ran out and by the time a second drone was sent out, the shark disappeared from view.
"I was in the water at the time and where I could see, the drone looked like it was a couple of hundred of metres out to sea," said Mr Aleckson.
"No surfer saw the shark... it might not have been coming our way.
"There was guys who stayed in the water."
Director of Life Saving Far North Coast Chris Samuels confirmed an Evans Head life guard sounded the alarm and SLFNC sent out an inflatable rescue boat but said the DPI was responsible for drone operation.
Was there a shark net at Evans Head on Sunday?
Mr Aleckson said there was a shark net at Evans Head on Sunday but it was pulled up again on Monday morning.
"The shark net trial hasn't started yet," A DPI spokesperson said in response to questions about a shark net at Evans Head.
He said nets were currently being tested in waters off the coast on a preliminary basis, meaning contractors could roll them out and pack them up irregularly until the trial starts properly on December 1.
Contractors were currently used to conditions further south that were different to conditions on the north coast.
The use of drones was part of the government's existing shark mitigation strategy and was not part of the new shark net trial, he said.
"Drones have a battery life of approx 30 minutes [but] the contractors are professionals at dealing with the drones," he said.
He said the department would issue another statement with more information soon.
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