NO NET GAIN: Byron Shire Mayor Simon Richardson makes his opinion clear at last weekend's No Nets Rally and turtle release at Ballina.
NO NET GAIN: Byron Shire Mayor Simon Richardson makes his opinion clear at last weekend's No Nets Rally and turtle release at Ballina.

Shark issue forces school to cancel all ocean sports

OPINIONS on shark mitigation strategies remain sharply divided in Byron Shire as the State Government moves to initiate trials of "old-style" shark netting in the region.

Monday's attack on surfer Jade Fitzpatrick near Suffolk Park added urgency to the local debate.

Byron Bay High School has also taken the step of cancelling all ocean based sports in Term Four.

In an email to parents the Principal Peter King said, "The school is increasingly worried about the heightened risks associated with ocean based sports due to increased shark activity on the North Coast. In our opinion there is currently an unacceptable risk associated with these sports for our students and we have taken the decision to cancel these sports for the remainder of this term."

Primary Industry Minister Niall Blair will introduce a bill in the last session of State Parliament to legalise a six-month trial of nets before Christmas.

Byron Shire Mayor Simon Richardson has slammed the state's net plan but said the council may be on the back foot when it comes to netting at the shire's beaches.

"Whilst the NSW State Government has talked of shark nets, our community has not been supportive of this as a shark mitigation measure," Cr Richardson said..

"(The) council is not the approval authority when it comes to the ocean, (but) we respectfully request the State Government talks with our residents to arrive at an outcome appropriate for our beaches," he said.

"Our beaches are part of a Marine Park and since November last year we've consistently requested support from the NSW government for non-lethal shark mitigation measures.

"This includes land shark spotter programs and aerial surveillance patrols with drones or gyro-pters."

In the light of Monday's incident, Byron Bay Boardriders Club president Neil Cameron re-iterated his concerns for the safety of beach goers.

Mr Cameron supported the State Government's moves and and continued to press for shark nets at Byron shire beaches.

He said he was voicing the opinion of many local surfers as well as the more than 100 members of the Boardriders Club.

"I fully understand many people, including the bloke attacked on Monday, are not in favour of nets," he said.

"But the time has come to face the fact that we have to use what is available and go with the evidence we have from Sydney's netted beaches where there have been no attacks."

Mr Cameron rejected the proposition the argument for shark nets was based on the desire to protect the local tourism industry.

"It's never been one of my criteria," he said. "My criteria has always been about saving life."


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