Shark trial to be continued

Flying instructor Peter Coulter, of East Coast Autogyro, flying over Evans Head on a shark watch patrol.
Flying instructor Peter Coulter, of East Coast Autogyro, flying over Evans Head on a shark watch patrol. David Nielsen

BEACHES from Newcastle to Wollongong will have another season of publically funded flying shark patrols, but beaches on the Far North and South coasts will go begging.

The NSW Government yesterday outlined plans to continue a trial of aerial shark surveillance after results of this past season were inconclusive, a spokesman for NSW Primary Industries Minister Steve Whan said.

The $75,000 trial will be funded on top of the $831,000 the State spends on its shark meshing program.

Meanwhile, a trial of aerial shark surveys on the Far North Coast is currently being carried out by a trio of gyrocopter pilots on a purely voluntary basis.

But there is hope that the program will be funded in future by Surf Lifesaving NSW.

Pilot Paul Mitchell said the patrol had highlighted a number of shark sightings in the Cape Byron area.

Ministerial spokesman Garth Montgomery said last year’s publically funded trial using fixed wing aircraft and helicopters reported very low numbers of sharks – 200 hammerheads over 15 days for instance along 202km of coasts between Newcastle and Wollongong.

“Shark sightings are unpredictable,” said Mr Montgomery. “Some years there is much shark activity. This past summer seemed very quiet.”

He said another year of the trial would perhaps determine whether an aerial patrol was worth funding.

“We are not in the business of surveying sharks,” he said.

By comparison the expensive shark meshing program had worked well over the years, leading to not one shark death along 51 beaches in the area.

“This Government continues to invest significantly in making our coastlines safer for all beachgoers.

However, the simple fact remains that there are no guarantees when entering the ocean, it’s the shark’s domain.”

Meanwhile, Far North Coast beaches remain unprotected from shark threat except for this summer’s voluntary aerial patrol, and the efforts of volunteer surf lifesavers.

Ballina was the location of the last shark death in NSW.

Gyrocopter pilot Peter Coulter previously told The Northern Star that sharks tended to concentrate north of Cape Byron, the location of numerous shark scares and at least two deaths from Great White shark attack.


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