No shark nets for our most popular tourist town
WORLD adaptive surf champion, commercial fisherman, and lifetime Byron local Mark "Mono" Stewart has called for the State Government to install a trial shark net off Clarkes Beach and Main Beach in Byron Bay.
Byron Shire beaches were conspicuously ignored by the State Government this morning when it announced it was fast-tracking shark net legislation to allow nets off Ballina's four most popular beaches and Evans Head, despite a fatal attack off Clarkes Beach in 2014.
Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson has repeatedly rejected the use of nets off Byron's beaches.
But Mr Stewart said the perception Byron Shire locals mostly reject shark nets was wrong, despite "the powers that be" saying so.
He said people in his community - many who had grown up the Bay area - supported the idea.
He said people agreed nets weren't the "final answer", "but we need to do something now".
"I don't know anyone personally who doesn't want them," he said.
"We're trying to work out who all the people are in the media saying Byron Bay doesn't want nets.
"I support them as a short term solution, even if it is just a trial."
Mr Stewart said the waters directly off Main Beach and Clarke's Beach would be "ideal" for a shark net trial.
"Clarke's Beach would be my number one pick," he said.
"That's where families go with their kids. And they're still deadly areas. Our last fatality was in the corner of Clarke's in head deep water."
Mr Stewart said he had spent the last month surfing in Indonesia to prepare for his world title defence in California in three weeks' time because he wasn't prepared to train in the sharky North Coast waters.
"(But) my biggest concern is my kids, I don't want my kids staying at home in their computers because they're too scared to go into the ocean for a surf," he said.
"If there is a choice between my child and a shark, it's a no brainer, obviously."
He also said he believed there was potential to upgrade shark nets to send alerts when any marine life was caught in it.
"Surely in this day and age we can come up with a net that is reasonably environmentally friendly," he said.
"If they had a net at Main Beach running up to Clarke's, (it) would be so easy to monitor. Even if it was shark... (someone could) get out there, hook it up, and take it out to sea."
"The weather is usually a lot calmer in the Bay, so visually it's easier."
"We just want the same protection that they get between Newcastle and Ulladulla."
President of the Byron Bay Boardriders Club Neil Cameron has also backed calls for nets in Byron, telling The Northern Star last month it was only a matter of time before there was another serious shark incident in Byron Shire.
"We are a major tourist destination and we want people to feel safe here, but I know people are not swimming because of the fear of shark attacks," he said on October 20.
"It's a sad thing to say but saving a human life has to come before the life of some other animal.
"Hopefully they can provide a maintenance system for the nets that will see any trapped, non-target species freed quickly."