From its earliest days the 7 Mile Beach shark barrier had its critics. Even before the team arrived to begin installation, there had been an ongoing debate about how to best deal with our shark problem, and opinions (as usual) were divided.
But the powers-that-be decided that a barrier which provided a protected area for swimming was the best way to go.
According to Surf Club President Geoff Harris, the decision was a good one. ‘We’ve seen numbers of nipper enrolments decline and been listening to the very real concerns of local parents. So we were hopeful that the shark barrier could be an answer,’ he says.
The NSW Department of Primary Industries appointed a Western Australian design company, Global Marine Enclosures, to design and install an Eco Barrier—The Aquarius Barrier—based upon one it installed at Albany in Western Australia.
Unfortunately the 7 Mile Beach barrier has been put on hold having met its match in the shifting sands, tidal force and pounding surf of the mighty Pacific Ocean.
But the project is not over yet.
Global Marine Enclosures is headed by industrial designer of 35 years, Edward Khoury—a man with 400 inventions under his belt, who lives and breathes design, who is passionate about people and the environment and who knows every float, block, anchor, chain and bolt of the Aquarius barrier. He would, because he designed them all.
He is supported by his wife Sharon and daughter Victoria, who also work in the family company.
Ed says the project has always been termed a ‘trial’, and that the trial continues. Several design issues have been identified during installation, things, he says, that could never have been predicted based upon his previous experience.
It’s been an enormous challenge for Ed, who has been working long hard days on our beach, with divers and helicopters and heavy machinery attempting to wrestle the barrier into place—a task that was meant to take 3 weeks and ended up taking 2 months.
‘I feel every part of the barrier in my bones,’ he says. ‘Of course it was a risk, but if I didn’t take it who would? It’s easy to be critical after the fact, but people have been designing new technologies around the world for centuries. There are always stops and starts, lessons to be learned.
‘We didn’t just arrive and start building. We spent 8 months or more designing this. We don’t take this lightly. And I don’t give up easily.
‘And I am not motivated by money.’
‘We chose the hardest beach in Australia and that was the right choice. We knew that conditions would be challenging but until you have the specific issues you cannot design something better.’
On the day that the surf finally got the better of the Aquarius Barrier, shifting sands forced part of the nylon barrier to fold and chafe against the cement anchor blocks, eventually shredding it and leaving bits and pieces of debris washing onto shore.
This debris was picked up by locals, who quite naturally showed concern. But, according to Ed, these holes were minor and the debris minimal. He is committed to cleaning up the site and debris, but the much bigger issue for him will be removing the anchors and blocks, many of which were lifted in by helicopter and are buried deep into the ocean bed.
The family will be back in early October to undertake the clean up operation.
Then, Ed says, he has redesigned the whole barrier, from floats and anchor blocks to the shape of the barrier itself.
‘These Eco Barriers have no by catch—unlike those used in Queensland, no other animals are harmed or killed in the nets. If we get this right, these barriers could be the answer for communities around the world that are attempting to deal with the threat of sharks,’ he says.
‘Like I said, I haven’t given up.’