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Sea Shepherd says figures appalling in shark net trial. NSW DPI report that 50 marine animals dead in a month from trial at 5 Ballina beaches.

May 9, 2017

 

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Dead White Spotted Eagle Ray or possibly Ocellated Ray in Lighthouse Beach shark net trial on March 3. Photo

The NSW North Coast Shark Meshing Trial Report for the last month has been released with the NSW government saying the data is getting analysed.

But Sea Shepherd says the results are disastrous and are a concern for marine life and humpback whales on their way up the coast soon.

The report covered the period: 8 April – 7 May 2017 of the six month trial that will finish in June at Lighthouse Beach (Ballina), Sharpes Beach (Ballina), Shelly Beach (Ballina), Seven Mile Beach (Lennox Head) and Evans Head Beach.

The report says, “During the fifth month of the NSW north coast meshing trial, nets were deployed for totals of 22–30 days at five beaches and each checked between 20 and 47 times (Table 1). The contractors are required to check the mesh nets twice a day, but if the weather or bar conditions prevent safe access, then fewer checks are made.”

Over the last 5 months the DPI has collected monthly data.

The data from the last month shows that no target sharks were caught in any of the five nets but 50 other marine animals died.

Sea Shepherd Australia coordinator Jonathan Clark says the results of the trial so far were disastrous for marine species.

“Sea Shepherd’s Apex Harmony, are taking a cautious approach regards the announcement that the nets of the North Coast Shark Net Trial will be removed mid June. The removal date has not changed despite the appalling figures shown in the DPI’s own publicly released data and obvious disastrous environmental impacts,” Mr Clark says

“50 marine animals died in the five trial nets between 8th April and 7th May. That number has grown from an average of 20 killed in each of the previous four months.

“250 marine animals have been entangled so far with more than half being killed. The animals killed have included dolphins, turtles, rays and harmless and endangered sharks.

A NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Niall Blair press release says the data shows that monthly more target sharks were caught using SMART drumlines than nets.

The May 9 press release outlines the five month cumulative figures from the North Coast Net Trial.

” Six target sharks caught (two White, one Bull, three Tiger sharks); three deceased, three alive. A total of 244 non-target animals were caught in the nets; 117 were released alive (48%) and 127 (52%) were found deceased in the nets,” the release says.

“SMART Drumline – Five month cumulative figures  29 target sharks (24 White, 3 Tiger and 2 Bull sharks); one White shark deceased (entangled), all others alive.  Two non-target animals (both Greynurse sharks) were caught and both were released alive.”

Mr Blair said by mid-June the five trial nets at Lighthouse Beach (Ballina), Sharpes Beach (Ballina), Shelly Beach (Ballina), Seven Mile Beach (Lennox Head) and Evans Head Beach   will have been in the water for six months.

“The data from the trial will now be analysed by DPI shark scientists to assess the effectiveness of the nets,” Mr Blair said.

“We will also continue to consult with the local community to gauge their views on the outcomes of the trial.

“When the nets are removed, we will increase the number of SMART drumlines to 35 (currently 25) – this will also be the most effective measure as the whale migration period begins on the North Coast.”

Sea Shepherd Australia coordinator Jonathan Clark is pushing for non-lethal methods to make the beaches safer.

 

“There is consolation as long as the nets ultimately stay out and the government returns to its original strong message, through the allocation of a $16M fund, for the development, trial and use of non-lethal mitigation methods.”

Clark says nets become a bigger issue once the humpback whale migration starts.

“It is of deep concern that the nets will remain in while the numbers of deaths they inflict only increases and the humpback whales begin to pass the area on their migration. Also of concern is the proposal to increase the number of drum lines deployed along this beautiful coastline.”

He says the Sea Shepherd crew filmed a live ray in the shark nets.

“We were not close enough to it to even know it was alive. We realised it was alive when we watched the contractor pull up the net. It moved as soon as it surfaced and the contractor roughly cut it from the net to release it.”

He says its illegal to interfere with the nets.

“We can’t rescue. In Ballina $22000 fine for interfering.”

Mr Clark says Sea Shepherd’s cross checking of the data that the DPI has released publicly with the data that Sea Shepherd collected by going out to the nets has raised some questions of accuracy.

“The decomposed ray demonstrates that the nets are not checked twice a day. The DPI data backs that up. The DPI data only shows number of checks across a month so they are an average,” Mr Clark says.
“The day we found the two rays at Lighthouse net, one dead and one alive, does not much up with their publicly released data. I cannot see on their data sets anything that matches that day.”
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Decomposed ray photographed by Sea Shepherd in the shark net at Sharpes Beach 23 April. Clark says the decomposition shows that the nets aren’t being checked regularly.

A table in the April/May report published at http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fishing/sharks/management/shark-net-trial/report-8-apr-7-may-2017 gives the figures for each beach in the trial:

The Beach
-The first number after the heading is the number of days net deployed
-The second number is the number of times the net checked between April 8, 2017 and May 7, 2017

Seven Mile, Lennox Head
29
29
Sharpes, Ballina
28
27
Shelly, Ballina
22
20
Lighthouse, Ballina
23
20
Main, Evans Head
30
47

The report summarises the findings. “During the fifth month, a total of 65 individuals from 13 species were caught in the mesh nets,” the report says.
“15 animals (23%) were released alive, 50 animals (77%) were deceased (tissue samples were retained for analyses) (Table 2), No target sharks (White, Tiger or Bull sharks) were caught,” the report says.

Figures below show the numbers of each species caught in the mesh nets that were alive and released, or dead at each beach.

Seven Mile, Lennox Head
Common Blacktip Shark
0 alive
1 dead

Dusky Whaler
1
0

Great Hammerhead Shark
0
1

Mackerel tuna
0
3

Pygmy Devilray
1
5

Whitespotted Guitarfish
1
1

Unidentified tuna
0
1

Sharpes, Ballina
Australian Cownose Ray
1
0

Common Blacktip Shark
0
3

Great Hammerhead Shark
0
1

Greynurse Shark
0
1

Manta Ray
1
0

Pygmy Devilray
2
2

Whitespotted Eagle Ray
1
2

Shelly, Ballina
Common Blacktip Shark
0
1

Green Turtle
0
1

Whitespotted Guitarfish
0
1

Lighthouse, Ballina
Australian Cownose Ray
1
0

Mulloway
0
3

Pygmy Devilray
1
2

Whitespotted Eagle Ray
1
2

Main, Evans Head
Common Blacktip Shark
0
1

Great Hammerhead Shark
0
2

Pygmy Devilray
4
16

The reports shows that 15 marine animals were found alive and 50 marine animals found dead in a month from shark net trial at 5 Ballina beaches.

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Black tip reef shark in Bilinga Beach GC shark net April 25. Credit to Sea Shepherd. Photo taken by Crystal Dombrow

 

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