A 3.2-metre great white the first of five sharks caught in new nets along mid-north NSW coast
A 3.2-metre great white was the first of five sharks caught in brand new nets deployed along the infamous stretch of northern NSW coastline that has been marred by a rash of attacks over the past year.
The hulking female was found ensnared off Sharpes Beach, Ballina at 11.30am on Saturday during a routine check of the nets by Department of Primary Industry personnel, just days after the net was installed.
Four other great white sharks were also snagged on Saturday by the state's new hi-tech drumlines, also deployed last week: a three-metre shark was caught off Lennox Head; another measuring 2.7 metres was snared at South Ballina; and two more were caught at Evans Head, measuring 2.5 and 2.3 metres.
DPI researchers Dr Paul Butcher and Matt Broadhurst tagged, relocated and released the large female caught in the net at Sharpes Beach.
The four other sharks were also tagged and released.
All five great whites will continue to be tracked as part of the department's coastal surveillance program.
The DPI was kept busy over the weekend, with an aerial surveillance team spotting a 3.5-metre great white shark near The Pass in Byron Bay.
Byron Police and surf lifesavers helped shepherd the shark away from the area.
NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Lands and Water, Niall Blair said the operation "demonstrates the value of a multifaceted approach".
"Although we can't guarantee there will be no shark attacks, the NSW Government is doing all we can to minimise the risk," Mr Blair said.
Locals have been decrying the human and economic cost of a spate of shark attacks off their beaches. There have been six shark attacks between Ballina and Byron Bay in the past year alone, and eight statewide.
The sixth shark attack - a 25-year-old man who was knocked off his board and bitten on the thigh at Sharpes Beach in October – was the last straw for Premier Mike Baird, who dropped his opposition to using shark nets, saying it was time to "prioritise human life over everything".
New shark nets were installed off the coast of five beaches
New shark nets were installed at five beaches along the NSW coast last week: Lighthouse Beach, Shelly Beach, Seven Mile Beach and Evans Head Beach.
The nets are checked twice daily and are fitted with whale alarms and dolphin pingers, like those used between Newcastle and Wollongong to help whales and dolphins.
The hi-tech Shark Management Alert in Real Time (SMART) drumlines alerts a response team when a shark is captured. The team can then respond immediately to tag and potentially relocate the shark, according to the DPI.
Some 25 SMART drumlines have been installed along the NSW coasts, with another 75 to be rolled out in the coming months.
Until October 1, Mr Baird – himself a keen surfer – had resisted calls for the nets. Instead, he heeded advice from scientists who argue there is little evidence nets alone make beaches safer while killing thousands of marine creatures over the years.
With Peter Hannam
The story A 3.2-metre great white the first of five sharks caught in new nets along mid-north NSW coast first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.