11 September 2019

Shark Drumline trial starts amid community concern and interest

| Ian Campbell
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NSW DPI is conducting an eight week trial of SMART drumline off Tathra and Pambula-Merimbula beaches. Photo: NSW DPI.

NSW DPI is conducting an eight week trial of SMART drumline off Tathra and Pambula-Merimbula beaches. Photo: NSW DPI.

News that a SMART drumline trial has been approved for Tathra and Pambula-Merimbula beaches has been met with scepticism, concern for the natural environment, and a degree of interest in local shark information.

Lynn McColl writes, “Totally disagree with this decision. Baited and bloody hooks will attract sharks, who when caught will then have a bloody mouth where the hook penetrates.”

“Seriously folks, how much more of the natural environment must humans have as their sole domain?” Helen Hugh says.

Peter Hannan writes, “I am disgusted by this decision. It is an absurd knee jerk reaction.”

“I was against it too until I learned the facts and understood what I was questioning. This is a conservation and education effort more than anything and it at the same time saves lives of humans and sharks,” Carmen Risby says.

Rob White writes, “I attended the information evening at Tathra and listened to the evidence and statistics presented by the marine scientists. The research to date was very interesting and the importance of gaining more information about shark behaviour was explained. Whether it is climate science or marine science it is best to take notice of the experts in my view.”

During the eight-week trial, which starts today, 10 SMART (Shark-Management-Alert-in-Real-Time) drumlines will be set at Tathra and 10 SMART drumlines will be set at Pambula-Merimbula beaches each morning and then retrieved later in the day – pending weather conditions.

NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Deputy Director General Fisheries, Dr Geoff Allan says, “Results from trials in other parts of the state show that SMART drumlines are successful in catching target sharks, which can then be tagged and released along with any non-target animals.”

While traditional drumlines have been associated with high fatalities of sharks and other marine species, NSW DPI explains that the SMART drumline sends an alert via text message, email and phone call when anything takes the bait, meaning sharks are released alive and DPI scientists have the opportunity to tag their target species – White, Bull, and Tiger sharks.

The large drumline hook is baited with a single sea mullet and is not designed to attract sharks, but to entice those who happen to be passing by.

News of the trial comes after an online survey and a number of drop-in sessions at Merimbula, Bermagui, Pambula Beach, and Tathra between November 26 and December 9. Bega Valley Shire Council asked NSW DPI to gauge community views before making a final decision on the trial.

The concern expressed in the last 24 hours on social media is similar to the sentiment and experience highlighted in the survey results.

Answering an enquiry from Region Media and public calls for the survey results to be released, NSW DPI has revealed that 237 survey responses were received, showing a diverse range of opinions.

Of the 237 respondents, 43% supported the SMART drumlines trial and 57% opposed the trial.

“DPI staff spoke with an estimated 135 people at drop-in stands, information sessions and during visits to local businesses and observed around 70% of those initially opposed to the trial were supportive of the trial after having received more information about it,” a DPI spokesperson says.

“The trial will provide a valuable opportunity to educate the community further about SMART drumlines and show how the non-lethal technology can operate in their local area to protect beachgoers while having a minimal impact on the local marine ecosystem.”

Bega Valley Mayor, Kristy McBain says “on face value, it appears the community is against the trial.”

Acknowledging that Council has no role to play or responsibility for the trial, Cr McBain says the final decision rested with NSW DPI and that there is perhaps value in letting the eight-week trial run its course as a way of informing further discussion.

The government claims the SMART DRumline trial will have a minimal impact on the local marine ecosystem. Photo: NSW DPI

The government claims the SMART DRumline trial will have a minimal impact on the local marine ecosystem. Photo: NSW DPI

The government is already a long way down the road with a number of other SMART drumline trials along the NSW coastline including on the North Coast where up to 35 SMART drumlines are deployed daily between Lennox Head and Evans Head and will be until June 30 next year.

Trials have also been conducted at Coffs Harbour, Forster, Kiama and Ulladulla, with other trials commencing in 2019 at Newcastle and Sydney.

Region Media has asked to accompany those conducting the NSW DPI Bega Valley trial.

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Simply wrong on all levels!

Sharks have no choice where they live, they can only live in the ocean, aren’t we lucky, imagine what a hell it would be having some one like you living next to a shark.

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