The NSW government is splashing some cash on shark mitigation. This was announced on Saturday. In the short term, a record $4.4 million is going into immediate mitigation methods, and in the longer term, the NSW government has promised ongoing funding of more than $85 million to continue the strategy until 2026.
Minister for Agriculture Dugald Saunders has said shark interactions are always possible, no matter what technologies are deployed, however, it is important for the NSW Government to do everything they can to reduce that risk.
This is particularly poignant in the wake of the tragic shark attack that occurred at Little Bay earlier this year.
“The tragic event that happened at Little Bay earlier this year was a tough reminder that whilst we’ve been able to coexist for decades relatively safely, sharks do exist and they can pose a significant risk to humans,” Mr Saunders said.
The primary immediate measures being taken are SMART drumlines, SMART listening stations and Rapid Response Vehicles.
SMART drumlines already exist along much of the NSW coastline, and judging by SharkSmart’s maps that are currently on its website, it appears only one new location – Eurobodalla – is being added (that said, Mr Saunders says 60 extra SMART Drumlines are being added. It remains unclear as to exactly where, but we’d guess they are being added to exiting locations on the map, which already have some SMART drumlines. Either that or this is an old map from SharkSmart).
A slew of new listening station locations are due to be added though, with proposed listening station locations being added to SharkSmart’s map in Tweed, Byron, Ballina, Richmond Valley, Clarence Valley, Coffs Harbour, Kempsey, Port Macquarie, Mid Coast, Lake Macquarie, Waverly, Kiama, Shoalhaven, Eurobodalla and Bega Valley.
You can use the SharkSmart app to see the latest updates and information gathered.
“We are not only announcing immediate additional response capabilities, including more Shark Listening Stations, SMART Drumlines and Rapid Response Vehicles, but we’re also committing to ongoing funding for future mitigation to protect our beachgoers for years to come,” Mr Saunders said.
The immediate additional response package, according to the NSW Government, includes 10 additional VR4G Listening Stations, 60 extra SMART drumlines, 500 more shark tags to trace sharks caught on expanded drumline roll out, funding for four more Rapid Response Vessels, Long Range Drone Trials in partnership with Surf Life Saving NSW, additional Surf Life Saving resources to increase their presence at beaches; and applied research into wetsuit materials to reduce the impact of shark attacks.
The $85.6 million 2022-2026 Shark Mitigation Program will include the extension of the 51 nets as part of the Shark Meshing Program deployed seasonally, the continuity and expansion of the SMART drumline program, the establishment of a First Responder Team based across NSW to coordinate the government’s response to shark incidents, keeping the NSW Government’s 37 shark listening stations across the coast, more funding to Surf Life Saving NSW to continue and expand aerial surveillance using drones across the state’s coastline, funding to continue to enable Surfing NSW to provide shark mitigation supports and services such as trauma kits during riding competitions and surf schools, a NSW government media release reads.
There will also be research funding for new tools, technologies and further insights into shark behaviour and an annual survey of community confidence and sentiment in NSW Government shark mitigation efforts.
Mr Saunders pointed out the investment builds on previous investment and initiatives: “This summer alone, the NSW Government committed $21.4 million to implement a number of extra mitigation tools, including SMART drumlines, drone technology, 16 additional shark listening stations, 51 shark nets, the Shark Smart app and community awareness campaigns, so today’s funding will be a welcome boost to further these initiatives.”
“We know sharks can be extremely dangerous and aggressive, however, they’re also part of what makes NSW’s marine life so beautiful, so we need to make sure we continue to have state-of-the-art technology in place to allow them and beachgoers to coexist.”Minister for Agriculture, Dugald Saunders
“There is no other jurisdiction in Australia or across the globe which has done as much testing and trialling of technology and approaches to mitigate shark interactions, and our shark program is now the largest and most comprehensive in the world.”
Advocates of SMART Drumlines reckon its madness to do nothing in the face of increasing “encounters” regardless of whether these encounters are due to sharks really being more plentiful (or simply due to warming waters bringing them closer to shore, despite their numbers being in decline) arguing SMART Drumlines are at least more targeted than nets, and point to the emotional distress shark attacks have caused on those regions affected.
Detractors argue we shouldn’t be putting hooks through any living creature’s mouth, whatever the reason (and claim SMART drumlines are ineffective). One Instagram user in the anti SMART drumline camp, @clarewerby, wrote on Instagram: “Drum-lines do nothing except harm marine life, attract bigger sharks and give the public a FALSE sense of safety.”
“There are plenty of other options that do not cause marine life harm. One example is the use of drones. Time to change and get with the times.”@clarewerby
nsw_sharksmart responded: “Our @nsw_dpi scientists led the trials to test drones for shark surveillance. Following these trials, we partnered with @slsnsw to put drones in the hands of our lifeguards and lifesavers and now have drones on 54 beaches in NSW, one of the largest drone programs in the world.”
“SMART (Shark Management Alert in Real Time) drumlines allow White, Bull and Tiger sharks to be intercepted beyond the surf break; once caught, they are tagged and released 1km offshore and can then be detected on the network of shark listening stations.”
Others made hopeful suggestions like “any chance of rebates for personal devices.”
We’ll keep our ears peeled on that one.