First shark detecting drones trialled on Mid North Coast

THE first trial of shark-detecting drones has got underway in Coffs Harbour today as the State Government fast-tracks the rollout of its $16 million shark strategy.

Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair today visited the Mid North Coast to make the announcement, which will also include the trial of smart drum lines to better protect surfers and swimmers this summer.

"There is no easy way to reduce risks for swimmers and surfers," Mr Blair said.

"We are delivering on a commitment to test the best science available, including new technologies, as we try to find an effective long-term solution to keep our beaches safe.

"These are the first of several trials that will get underway across the state's beaches this summer as we take an integrated approach to working out a long-term solution."

The trials will test the effectiveness of drone technology in shark attack mitigation by feeding images back to the operator in real time, using GPS coordinates.

Mr Blair also announced smart drum lines, recommended in an independent report into shark technologies, will be trialled.

The first line will be deployed at Ballina.

The NSW Nature Conservation Council said it would closely monitor the technology to ensure harm to threatened marine species is minimised.

"We welcome the plan to increase surveillance however we have concerns about the potential environmental impact of smart drum lines - a technology that will provide little if any added protection for swimmers," NCC marine campaigner Justine Field said.

"Drum lines can kill sharks, including endangered and non-threatening species as well as whales, dolphins and turtles.

"We are waiting for more information on the protocols around the proposed trial, but the community has consistently said it doesn't support killing sharks."

The State Government has also fast-tracked the delivery of two 4G listening stations which will be positioned at Sharpes Beach at Ballina and Clarkes Beach Byron Bay to provide real time tracking data of tagged sharks.

A further eight listening stations are making their way to NSW and will be installed at Tweed Heads, Lennox Head, Evans Head, Yamba, Coffs Harbour, South West Rocks, Port Macquarie, and Forster.

Ten others will follow.

In addition to these measures, the NSW Government has increased aerial helicopter surveillance on the North Coast.

Helicopters will fly at least three hours each day, weather permitting, from December 1 until January 26, flying from Byron Bay to Evans Head.

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