SIGNS OF SUPPORT: Young protesters make their opinions clear at a rally in support of shark nets at Ballina last November. More than 500 people attended the event calling for the immediate installation of the nets. PHOTO: ALINA RYLKO/ THE NORTHERN STAR
SIGNS OF SUPPORT: Young protesters make their opinions clear at a rally in support of shark nets at Ballina last November. More than 500 people attended the event calling for the immediate installation of the nets. PHOTO: ALINA RYLKO/ THE NORTHERN STAR Alino Rylko

Surfer calls for second shark net off one coastal town

SHARK nets on the NSW North Coast contributed to "record sales" over Christmas in the trial area thanks to visitors' "psychological security", says a lead surfing spokesperson.

"We all expected there would be less people here but the nets went in at the right time just before Christmas," said Le-Ba Boardriders President Don Munro more than a month after the trial began in early December.

"The collateral damage has been minor in relation to the fact that we're saving human lives."

Department of Primary Industries' officials this week released the first monthly report of by-catch from the nets: it showed 28% of 43 animals caught died, including four great hammerhead sharks, one bottlenose dolphin and a green turtle.

"I'm not happy about it, no one wants to see marine life hurt," said Mr Munro, "but in all the time the nets have been in [throughout Australia], no species has been wiped out".

Mr Munro said he had expected the by-catch number to be higher because DPI workers and fishermen had told him it can take a while for marine animals to "get used to the nets".

"Retail has been good, tourism has been good, we've not seen another attack... nets may not be the single thing that has helped but they have to have helped," he said.

"Most people who go to NSW know about the 51 nets and only one fatality in 70 years."

Non-fatal shark encounters on netted beaches were "gonna happen", he said.

"Sharks can still get in but you're not going to get them to the extent that you would have without the nets."

Surfers need more netting

DPI contractors installed nets at five beaches on the north coast but Mr Munro said he wanted to see a second net at Lennox Head, directly outside the Lennox Hotel.

"The main concern we have is so many kids are there," he said, "it's where all our kids learn to surf".

"Sharks have been sighted - my daughter and I had one surface within 3 metres of us last year.

"It's an area that's used basically every day of the week - good or bad, it's still surfable."

The world's biggest annual surf competition for children aged 12 and upwards was held in front of the Lennox Hotel, Mr Munro said and a lot of parents were "anxiously waiting" for a net to be installed.

While surf schools did not have official designated zones in the area, many children used the space for private lessons and practice, he said, especially over the summer.

A child under the age of 13 called Nyxie Ryan was bitten on the hand, mostly likely by a shark, a couple of years ago in waters outside the Lennox Hotel, said Mr Munro.

"I've spoken with the premier and the minister (Niall Blair) about putting a net in front of the Lennox Hotel," he said.

"I spoke to Minister Blair when he came for the shark net trial launch and I texted the premier directly Christmas Eve, he said he'd look into it."

But Mr Munro said he hadn't received an update from either minister.

"I'm a little upset they haven't done anything about that," he said, "I know they've got spare nets, it's just a matter of installing it and servicing it".

Shark nets "pale in comparison" to deep sea fishing

"In Sydney, radical greens are destroying the nets, this proves they value marine life above human life," said Mr Munro.

"Their energy could be put more positively towards deep sea fishing.

"It's fairly common knowledge [deep sea fishers are] pilfering the oceans, that's one thing but the collateral damage is terrible.

"One third, on average, of any catch from long haul nets is dead - it's absolutely shocking.

"Shark nets pale in comparison."

Mr Munro said he placed no emphasis on comments people made against going into the ocean: "it's a really weak argument".


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