Shark nets will remain despite Northern Beaches Council asking they be removed in favour of newer technology.

NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) this week announced a new shark management program, which will include new technologies such as drones, listening stations, smart drumlines alongside existing control measures such as beach meshing (shark nets) and tagging.

In April this year, Northern Beaches Council voted to ask the NSW Government that shark nets be removed because of the impact on non-target species such as dolphins and turtles.

The announcement by DPI will implement new technology and triple funding to over $21m for the NSW Government shark management program.

Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall said the NSW Government was committed to keeping swimmers and surfers safe while minimising the impact on marine life by using non-invasive technologies where possible.

Adam Marshall

Adam Marshall

“We have always said there is no silver bullet when it comes to protecting beachgoers from sharks in NSW. But the NSW Government will now be operating the world’s largest shark management program aiming to get the balance right, between keeping swimmers and surfers safe, and protecting our marine life.

“In partnership with Surf Life Saving NSW, we will be deploying the world’s largest domestic fleet of drones to the state’s beaches thanks to an extra $3m to scale up operations. This will mean more than 50 beaches will have a shark-spotting eye in the sky.

“This summer season, we will be deploying over 100 SMART drumlines in nearly every coastal council area starting with Kingscliff, Tuncurry and Coffs Harbour next month.

“We will also continue the deployment of shark nets as part of the Shark Meshing Program in the Greater Sydney Region while we measure the success of the expanded technology-led solutions.

“Finally, we will be blanketing our coast with 37 VR4G shark listening stations to make sure that when a tagged shark comes close to the coast, everyone using our SharkSmart app will know about it instantaneously, including SLSNSW and council lifeguards,” said Minister Marshall.

Northern Beaches Councillor David Walton said that while he was pleased new technologies would be implemented, he hoped data would allow shark nets to be revisited when more is known.

David Walton

David Walton

“During the NSW DPI consultation on shark mitigation strategies last year, Northern Beaches Councillors requested an increase in non-lethal shark mitigation strategies to keep our beaches safe.

“We also requested that shark netting cease if replaced by appropriate non-lethal strategies, however shark nets will stay for the next season, together with an increase in non-lethal shark management strategies,” said Cr Walton.

Surf Life Saving NSW President George Shales OAM said the expansion of the drone (UAV) program would see over 200 pilots employed along the NSW coastline with over 25k flights expected.

George Shales OAM

George Shales

“Alongside their primary use for shark mitigation, the UAVs are an additional tool to assist volunteer lifesavers and lifeguards identify other hazards such as rip currents, patrol outside flagged swimming areas and are an integral part of search and rescue operations. We’ve shown this technology is here to stay and hope that with greater coverage we can save even more lives,” said Mr Shales.

Surf Life Saving NSW currently conducts routine drone patrols from Palm Beach, South Narrabeen and Dee Why.

Image & video: NSW Department of Primary Industries

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