The NSW government says removing shark nets is “off the table” despite announcing a trial of catch-and-release drum lines in the waters off Newcastle.
Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair told the Newcastle Herald on Monday during a visit to Newcastle that drum lines could complement shark nets but not replace them.
“You’d be a very brave person to be the person that pulls the nets out of the water that have been in here for decades where historically there have been no attacks,” he said.
“It would be a very brave person to pull them out of the water. The first time there’s an attack, you’d open yourself up.”
The last fatal attack at a netted beach in NSW was in 1951, when national surf ski champion Frank Okulick was mauled to death at Merewether.
But scientists and environmental groups such as Sea Shepherd say the data shows the nets have not reduced the number of shark encounters since the meshing program began in 1937.
Read more: How catch-and-release drum lines work
The Herald reported on Monday that the Department of Primary Industries would install up to 10 SMART drum lines – baited hooks which summon a boat crew via a satellite-linked signal box – off Stockton, Nobbys, Newcastle, Bar Beach, Dixon Park and Merewether beaches from February 1 to April 30.
The state’s shark meshing program has attracted criticism for the amount of by-catch killed in nets each year.
The new SMART drum lines being trialled off Newcastle and other parts of the state drastically cut the damage done to marine life.
But it is clear the political realities around the issue, especially two months out from a state election, will keep the nets in place.
“It’s a polarising issue, no doubt, but they’ve been here in the water for some time and we’re not looking at taking them out,” Mr Blair said.
“At this stage we’re not even contemplating taking the nets away.”
Deeper reading: NSW election 2019
- Objectors say Environment Ministers approval of Wallarah coal mine will cost key seat (January 21, 2019)
- Newcastle Art Gallery expansion project grows beyond $40m as Tim Crakanthorp revives Labor funding commitment (January 21, 2019)
- Liberals' Scot MacDonald out of running for Newcastle, Maitland (January 21, 2019)
- Long road ahead for Nelson Bay despite Gladys Berejiklian funding commitment (January 20, 2019)
- Labor lines up Cessnock deputy mayor Melanie Dagg to replace Martin Rush as Upper Hunter candidate (January 19, 2019)
- Greens announce candidates for Newcastle and Wallsend (January 17, 2019)
- Premier Gladys Berejiklian says extra $100m Hunter Water dividend will flow into state's consolidated revenue (January 15, 2019)
- Premier Gladys Berejiklian announces another $205 million for Nelson Bay Road upgrade (Janaury 15, 2019)
- Liberal Party spends $700m in Newcastle but no candidates in sight (January 15, 2019)