Protesters in support of shark nets at Ballina today.
Protesters in support of shark nets at Ballina today. Alina Rylko

Sharks prey on surfers but whole region hurts

A LOUD protest fronted by children shaking placards was held at Ballina on Saturday, calling for shark nets to be installed without delay from Evans Head to Brunswick Heads.

The debate over shark mitigation options has raged following a series of shark attacks in the area, the most recent of which was in September when a 17-year-old boy was bitten.

The State Government announced a six-month shark net trial in response, but the message from over 500 residents who protested at Missingham Park was the nets aren't here soon enough.

Community for Ocean Safety organisers called for the immediate action, including the exact dates and locations of the shark net trials that were promised to be rolled out before Christmas.

Le-Ba Boardriders president Don Munro was applauded as he opened the rally announcing "we are the apex predator on the planet".

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The comment was in response to those who believe shark nets cause harm to the marine eco-system such as the hundred who gathered at Ballina's Lighthouse Beach just two weeks ago.

"Human life is more valuable than animal life and should be treated as such," Mr Munro said.

"(Board riders) are scared to go surfing, we've had 13 attacks, and over the last couple of years we've had two deaths.

"We've got a situation where we are being targeted by these sharks, they're not going away or they come and go, and we need some sort of protection.

"We should get precedence over animals.

"The nets have been proven to work for 70 years."

Ballina Shire councillor Ben Smith said the spate of attacks over the past two years was taking a toll on tourism and retail in the area.

"We want a proven initiative, protection for our swimmers, surfers and tourists," Mr Smith said.

"We want that installation immediately."

 

Lennox Head Alstonville Surf Life Saving Club nippers president Sam Miller said attacks were driving down life saver numbers and the community feared their lifestyle was "disappearing".

"Our numbers are dropping dramatically," Mrs Miller said.

"Not just our nippers, we're also finding it hard to get patrol members (to Ballina) finding it hard to get bronze medallion people there, and our training schedule has changed dramatically.

"The community really haven't had much say in what was going to happen and from today it was very evident a lot of people are passionate in regards to getting the nets.

"It's a big diverse area but really it's the people who use the ocean are the people that need to have their say."

Ms Miller said the Surf Life Saving as an organisation whole was "staying quiet" on the issue which is why the groups felt compelled to rally.

"No one is speaking up for us," Mrs Miller said.

A NSW Surf Life Saving spokesperson said it's supporting the NSW Government's roll-out of a range of shark mitigation measures and trials of equipment.

"It's clear that there may not be a single solution to the problem and we will need to look at a variety of measures."

 



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