Shark sightings prompt research push

The Baird government has ruled out any cull of great whites, turning instead to science in the face of an “alarming” jump in shark sightings along the NSW north coast.


Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair has promised $250,000 to step up tagging, monitoring and education to help ease the fears of beach-going north coast locals.

“We won’t be culling great white sharks, but part of the research program (involves) tagging on the north coast so that we can better inform the public about the movement of those sharks, and better understand their behaviour,” Mr Blair said.

He’s also sent a fisheries boat north from Coffs Harbour.

“It will be checking conditions, bait school numbers, and water conditions and temperatures all the way up the coast to provide assessments as to what may be leading to these sharks off the north coast,” he told reporters on Friday.

The government has previously promised a $100,000 review of technologies that could help repel sharks from stretches of coastline that pull crowds of locals and tourists.

“We want to make sure that the money we spend to protect the beachgoers of NSW is based on science and the best available technology,” Mr Blair told reporters at Sydney’s Coogee Beach on Friday.

Ballina Shire Mayor David Wright is happy the government has responded to the community’s concerns.

A surfer was mauled to death at Shelley Beach in February, and 11 others have been attacked in the months since, including two serious attacks last month.

“This is what we have been asking for; the experts are going to come up and assist and then make a decision on what to do,” Mr Wright told AAP.

Surf Life Saving NSW’s Lifesaving manager, Andy Kent, said there had been plenty of extra pressure on lifesavers – “and our season hasn’t even started yet”.

“It is alarming how many sightings there are, and the amount of attacks was concerning,” Mr Kent said.

But most swimmers and surfers were making the job easier by heeding shark warnings, he said.

Northern NSW residents have reported a rise in the number of sharks being spotted.

But the DPI’s shark expert, Vic Peddemors, says it’s not yet clear why.

“Obviously there are more people looking for sharks, so as a result you’re going to have more shark sightings,” Dr Peddemors said on Friday.

“Is that a reflection of the fact that there are more sharks? Or are they just now being seen more regularly? Part of the new initiative is to try to tease out the truth of what is going on up in northern NSW.”