PREMIER Mike Baird has thrown his weight behind the gravity of shark concerns on the North Coast by personally inspecting new shark mitigation technologies off the coast of Lennox Head and Ballina yesterday.
On board a Department of Primary Industries (DPI) fisheries patrol boat, the Premier and Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair inspected a 4G shark listening station off Lennox Point and two "smart" drum lines.
All are part of the State Government's $16m shark management strategy which includes $7.7m for surveillance, detection and deterrents, $7m for science and research and $1.3m for education and community awareness.
While the listening stations, tagging and smart drum lines are on track, it was revealed the installation of the highly-anticipated eco-net shark barriers at Lighthouse Beach in Ballina and Lennox Head won't be fully functional until after the summer holidays.
"The hope is that before the end of February they are up and fully operational, but they start to hit the water in January," Mr Baird said.
When installed, the shark barriers at Ballina will run the entire length of the beach - about 650m - while the barrier net at Lennox Head Beach will be about 150m.
Two of 20 state-of-the-art VR4G listening stations are in "priority" positions off Sharpes Beach at Ballina and Clarkes Beach at Byron Bay, monitoring sharks tagged as part of the current DPI tagging program - as well as other sharks tagged in Queensland and by researcher organisations including the CSIRO.
The information received via the listening stations will be tweeted in real time to ensure the public has the latest information to make informed decisions before entering the water.
The Premier and Mr Blair said 200 sharks had already been tagged, with an estimated 1200 adult great whites in total. "All of those sharks which are tagged, if they come within 500m of those buoys we will know straight away," Mr Baird said.
The "smart" drum lines work in a similar way to traditional drum lines, except they have cameras and sensors attached which alert DPI staff who then tag and release the animal.
Mr Baird said the shark situation on the Northern Rivers was something he felt very personally.
"One of the highlights of my life and one of my deepest enduring memories was the first wave I caught at Lennox Head," he said.
"I could not believe that anything could be that perfect.
"This is not something that's just an academic exercise, I deeply, personally, feel it."