NSW Greens marine spokesperson Justin Field has warned that ongoing fear-mongering about sharks is risking the public losing sight of the value of our wild oceans, and the importance of apex predators, including sharks, to healthy natural ecosystems.
The comments follow the announcement of a Department of Primary Industries sessions in Coffs Harbour and Sawtell this coming weekend (Aug 11 and 12) promoting SMART drumlines.
The NSW Government has an agenda of expanding the SMART drumline program along the NSW coast, despite there being no evidence of any change to the risk of shark bites in NSW waters.
Mr Field has called on Fisheries Minister Niall Blair to release any data which suggests an increased risk from sharks in the Coffs Harbour region or step back from the SMART drumline expansion back which is driving unnecessary fear of sharks in some communities.
“The risk hasn’t changed but the Government continues to ramp up the rhetoric. The chance of shark bite remains extremely low and SMART drumlines make it no less likely someone will be bitten,” he said.
“I’m worried the ongoing commentary about sharks is stoking unnecessary public fear where it isn’t warranted. We should be trying to cultivate a greater understanding of the important role sharks play in a healthy ocean while educating about the real risks.
“The Greens have supported targeted trials of SMART drumlines and the trials have been promising with no by-catch and low mortality of caught sharks.
“A major expansion of SMART drumlines requires expensive monitoring and response. Without that response regime, endangered and non-threatening sharks risk being killed on the lines despite them presenting very small risk to ocean users. There are more cost effective ways and less destructive ways to mitigate those risks.
“When we go into the ocean we are entering the domain of sharks. We have to learn to live with them and the constant focus on nets and drumlines is creating unnecessary fear.”