MIKE Baird has copped criticism from both a surfer and a marine scientist for his tentative decision to trial shark nets.
MIKE Baird has copped criticism from both a surfer and a marine scientist for his tentative decision to trial shark nets. Leah White

Mike Baird caught on the fence in shark debate

A LENNOX Head surfer has accused Premier Mike Baird of "stalling tactics" over shark nets and warned of more tragic attacks over summer.

Mr Baird announced to much fanfare this week he had written to the Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg to seek a lifting of the shark net moratorium for a six month trial on the North Coast.

But outspoken local surfer Don Munro said a phone call would have sufficed, saying the government was "playing Russian roulette with our kids' lives".

"The amount of (shark) sightings is phenomenal," Mr Munro said.

"I know from speaking with commercial fishermen that 15 years ago there was hardly a white (shark) sighted. That's completely turned around."

Mr Munro argued the shark problem could be easily solved by rolling out about 30 conventional baited drumlines between Evans Head and Byron Bay for just $300,000 a year.

In Queensland's highly effective shark control program running since 1967, 695 sharks were caught last year, mostly on drum lines rather than nets.

These included 287 tiger sharks, 114 bull sharks, and 11 great whites.

The Queensland program also ensnared 82 animals other than sharks including turtles, dolphins, and rays and the occasional whale.

The NSW meshing program from Wollongong to Newcastle caught just 14 "dangerous" sharks but killed a total of 116 animals.

But Southern Cross University marine scientist Dr Daniel Bucher said the killing of sharks and other marine life "in order to make it safe for a recreational pursuit" was unacceptable.

He also criticised Mr Baird over his sudden call for nets, saying he was "making (policy) up as he goes alone" - and basing policy on who shouted the loudest.

Mr Baird said in Parliament this week that community attitudes to nets on the North Coast had changed, but Dr Bucher said there was no evidence of that.

He said he recently applied for funding for a scientific survey of public attitudes to shark netting but was knocked back.

"How many surfers are happy for (marine animals) to die so that risks of dying are reduced from one fatality per year to one every two years?" Dr Bucher said.

"Just ask the surfers, is that what they want?"

He encouraged surfers to buy a personal shark deterrent device, saying it was a "small price to pay to do what you love without killing the environment".

The NSW Government has also committed to rolling out another 84 "smart" drumlines with the North Coast the first priority.

A spokeswoman from Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair's office said the locations of the nets and time frame for installation would be "guided by consultation with the north coast community".

"The NSW Department of Primary Industries will convene a meeting of the North Coast Shark Management Strategy Community Reference Group as soon as practicable to discuss this decision and the design of the trial.



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