It’s the subject we are all talking about: what to do about the potentially life threatening Great White Sharks that are hanging out just off our beaches and prowling our favourite surf breaks? They have a nasty track record, having recently taken a life here and very nearly taken others. But they are a legally protected threatened species that has been calling the ocean ‘home’ since before the dinosaurs.
But the mood of a meeting of around 200 surfers, residents and local businesses held at Lennox Head on monday night was clear, with overwhelming (over 90% in a show of hands) support for a cull of some kind. While the exact details or definition of ‘cull’ was not discussed, it was made apparent that members of the local surfing fraternity are frustrated about the ‘lack of action’ by the State Government on the issue, and at what they perceive is a ‘double standard’ around the legal protection of this species.
‘Call it what you like,’ said Brady Alexson. ‘Call it a cull, call it a management plan. Unprecedented numbers of sharks call for unprecedented measures.’
And from another member of the crowd, ‘If a dog did this to a person it would be dead by now.’
And another, ‘I value a mate’s life more than I do a shark’s.’
And, ‘It’s an insult to the family of the victims that we can’t get out there and kill these sharks.’
The meeting, organised by President of the Le-Ba Boardriders Surf Club Don Munro, with help from members of the club, Wayne Webster and Nick Mercer, attracted surfers from as far south as Evans Head, up to Byron Bay. Speakers included Mayor David Wright, Detective Inspector Cameron Lindsay, Nick Mercer and Evans Head ex-fisherman Brady Alexson, and there was lively input from the crowd.
According to Mayor Wright there are 7 identified sharks frequenting our far north coast waters at the moment, with regular sightings from the air, and just as many up-close-and-personal encounters in the water. These numbers are unprecedented, and their presence has created a flurry of behind-the-scenes activity, discussion, meetings, advisory sessions and the development of a new ‘Shark Protocol’. The Mayor says it has been the ‘busiest time of his life’ with constant demand from media and members of the public for his time.
‘I did 200 interviews in the last month,’ he said. ‘I’m worried. We’re all worried. I want to get people back into the surf and protect the name of the Ballina Shire. I want people to keep coming here and I want to make sure we are all safe. But the fact is that there is no simple answer. We could go out and kill these 7 sharks and there could be another 7 there next week.’
While the Mayor ruled out nets, because of their indiscriminate destruction of other species like turtles and dolphins, he said, he was open to anything that might help resolve the problem. Discussion revolved around continued aerial patrols (which are very expensive), the use of drones (which cannot operate when it is even slightly windy), tagging (also expensive), DNA testing (long-term and possibly inconclusive) sonar wave deterrents such as the Clever Buoy, and dangling a shark’s carcass in the water (something they do in Polynesia, which is effective against Great Whites but not Tiger Sharks).
However in the end it was agreed that the first step is to unite and work together, with the formation of a mailing list and Facebook page. Lobbying of MPs and large corporations was discussed, as was the possibility of crowd funding.
In the meantime Council will host a local advisory group meeting in late September, and then send representatives to a larger Shark Summit in Sydney in October.
We will keep you posted. Like the Lennox Wave Facebook page for updates and information.
Pictured below: organisers Nick Mercer, Don Munro and Wayne Webster