State Member for Ballina, Tamara Smith
State Member for Ballina, Tamara Smith Contributed

Shark netting not the answer

IT IS a difficult time to be talking about sharks, and my heart goes out to the family and friends of Matthew Lee and to all North Coast community members who have been shaken by recent encounters in our oceans.

As an ocean swimmer who swims between the Pass and Byron Beach most days, I am conscious of the risks in the water, but I also recognise that our healthy oceans and marine life are what makes this part of the world such a beautiful place to live.

Sharks are a natural part of a healthy ocean, and people understand the risk we take when we go into their territory.

Following the calls of some government MPs to install shark nets across North Coast beaches, I've written to the NSW Premier Mike Baird and asked him to rule out expanding the state's Shark Netting Program.

Seventy-nine percent of marine animals caught in shark nets last year were threatened species or non-target species, with dozens being killed, including a humpback whale, dolphins, turtles, rays and harmless sharks like the endangered Grey Nurse.

In Sydney, the move is away from shark nets and the Premier last year flagged his intention to fund a trial of non-lethal deterrents.

We are a community of ocean lovers, and I want to see people kept safe, but shark netting is not the answer.

We should be fast-tracking research and trials into non-lethal deterrents, and I have asked the Premier to update the community on the trial plans.

In the meantime, we need to continue public education about the importance of sharks to healthy marine ecosystems and on avoidance strategies so people can make informed decisions when enjoying our wonderful coastline.

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