NON LETHAL: Founder of Shark Watch Ballina and marine ecologist Jann Gilbert with Ballina MP Tamara Smith with the drone that will be used to patrol at Tallow Beach Byron Bay.
NON LETHAL: Founder of Shark Watch Ballina and marine ecologist Jann Gilbert with Ballina MP Tamara Smith with the drone that will be used to patrol at Tallow Beach Byron Bay.

New shark warning system launches on the North Coast

A LARGE school of politicians, councillors and shark watchers were at Tallow Beach in Byron Bay for the launch of a new drone-based, non lethal-shark mitigation strategy.

Greens MP for Ballina Tamara Smith and Byron Shire Mayor Simon Richardson announced the council would contribute $11,000 in funding for a shark spotting program by Shark Watch to start in Byron Shire.

Shark Watch is a Ballina based community group which uses volunteers and a drone to scan the sea near surfers and swimmers for shark activity. The group uses an agreed alert system to warn people in the area that sharks are present, so that surfers and swimmers can leave the water.

In the wake of recent shark encounters in the region the NSW Government is moving to initiate a trial of old style beach nets on the North Coast.

Many in Ballina have embraced the trial but Byron Shire Council has always signalled their opposition to lethal shark mitigation methods such as nets and drum lines.

"I am enormously encouraged to see that Byron Shire will fund Shark Watch to provide a greater level of safety to surfers and swimmers while not endangering marine life," said Tamara Smith.

Mayor Simon Richardson praised the Shark Watch system as being non-lethal, community based and with the ability to be scaled up easily.

"If enough volunteers step up we could have this system operating on every beach across the region," he said.

"We as a council have always been keen on a non-lethal science based system rather than a state government imposed solution based on fear and an emotional response."

NSW Shark Watch co-founder and marine ecologist, Jann Gilbert, said volunteers were very excited about the funding announcement and looked forward to starting regular patrols in time for the 2016-17 holiday season.

Location of the Shark Watch spotters will move around beaches within Byron Shire dependent on sea and wind conditions.

Co-founder of Shark Watch Andrew Nieuwenhof said the full trial would go ahead as soon as the group had enough volunteers and equipment in place.

He said 32 volunteers were needed to patrol one beach over a two day weekend.

For information or to volunteer go to the Facebook page or call: 0468740019.


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