Drumlines catching sharks and protecting surfers

Dom Vukovic
Swellnet Dispatch

A six-month trial of SMART (Shark Management Alert in Real Time) drumlines along the New South Wales Mid North Coast has shown the devices are "removing the threat of great white sharks from popular beaches" and protecting swimmers, researchers say.

In August the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) deployed 20 devices in two areas including beaches at Forster and Tuncurry and also further north around Coffs Harbour and Sawtell.

The DPI said a total of 64 sharks were caught off Forster and Tuncurry during the trial, with as many as 16 great white sharks over two metres snagged on devices there in just the first month alone.

Researcher Paul Butcher from the DPI's Fisheries Conservation Unit said the latest data from the trial showed the devices were effective in reducing the threat of an interaction between the sharks and swimmers, by effectively removing target sharks that came too close.

"It can reduce the likelihood of an attack or incident with a dangerous shark," he said. "We are catching animals on those beaches that are being used by the public and after capture and tagging they're nearly 15 to 20 kilometres offshore in the next two days.

"But at the same time we're getting that scientific data to tell us where they are on those beaches and when they're moving along our coastline."

Mr Butcher said there was a good reason to explain the high number of great white sharks caught off Forster and Tuncurry compared to Coffs Harbour and other parts of the coast.

"In the Port Stephens Hawkes Nest area we know there's a juvenile nursery area for great white sharks and basically that Forster area is an extension of that nursery," he said.

In contrast Coffs Harbour's catch was far less, with only 15 sharks caught during the trial.

A whale and sharks swim through a baitball at Tuncurry, September 2017

Forster local and surfboard designer Jada McNeil said it was apparent there were more sharks and described a recent close call she had at popular One Mile Beach with her daughter.

"As the wave formed in front of me it was like looking into an aquarium," she said. "We were diving right into it, and my reaction was to get my daughter out as quickly as possible.

"We were actually shocked that it was captured on film, no-one else had seen it, but it was certainly there."

Ms McNeil says the latest trial data showing the large number of sharks being caught on drumlines was disconcerting but not enough to stop her from going for a swim at her beautiful local beach.

"It is causing a bit of hysteria, and I think a lot of people have the attitude that they would rather not know," she said. "It is affecting the surf tourism industry and affecting beachgoers as well."

Ms McNeil said she was also concerned that the baited drumlines, which were positioned about 500 metres offshore during the trial, were deployed too close to swimmers and surfers and potentially attracting sharks to their vicinity.

The smart drumline uses GPS to send real time alerts to Department of Primary Industries scientists and contractors

SMART drumlines differ from traditional drumlines because they are able to alert operators when a shark has been snagged on a baited hook, and the aim is for a team to reach the animal as quickly as possible to increase its chances of survival.

"We're tagging the animal when it comes up to the surface and then we can track that animal for over a period of 10 years," Mr Butcher said. "That scientific data tells us they're moving up and down our coastline."

Mr Butcher said the data so far disproved previous theories that sharks became localised in areas like Ballina and Evans Head where spates of attacks had occurred over the past two years. He said the data showed that the sharks preferred to stay in deeper waters once they were caught and generally stayed away from the area they were caught, with most continuing their movement up and down the coast.

"The data shows they move far up into Queensland, around Rockhampton, to New Zealand and down into Tasmania and Victoria with some animals travelling to Western Australia," Mr Butcher said.

As part of the State Government's Shark Management Strategy SMART drumlines are just one of a number of mitigation measures being explored. A recent report into the trial of shark nets from November between Lennox and Evans Head showed as many as 24 animal deaths, with a single bull shark caught off Ballina the only target species captured.

In contrast the death of only one animal in the SMART drumlines trial has led Greens MP Justin Field to label shark nets an "abysmal failure".

"The nets on the north coast, and there's 50 across Sydney beaches, do not catch many target sharks, but they do catch non-threatening species including turtles and dolphins, which often die," he said. "They kill hundreds of marine animals and there's whales that die too."

Mr Field said the SMART drumline trial data was promising, but he said a broader strategy was required.

"This can't be the only strategy, a big part of the strategy has to be surveillance and drone technology. Increasing resources for surf lifesaving and professional patrols is one of the most effective ways to improve safety," he said.

"But this evidence coming in from the tagging trial has been really valuable to give communities an understanding of how sharks behave and where they're located around the NSW coast."

//DOM VUKOVIC
© Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

Comments

t-diddy's picture
t-diddy's picture
t-diddy commented Thursday, 15 Feb 2018 at 12:33pm

there's no perfect solution but IMHO this is a good program - taxes well spent

Toppa's picture
Toppa's picture
Toppa commented Thursday, 15 Feb 2018 at 3:23pm

If they're travelling south to Tasmania and Victoria, which makes perfect sense due to the cooler water temperatures, I wonder where exactly in Victoria they are going? Encounters down here in Vic are still pretty rare (touch wood) compared to further north.

Toppa

filthyphil's picture
filthyphil's picture
filthyphil commented Thursday, 15 Feb 2018 at 3:38pm

I understand they hang around the Prom a bit.
Being from Vic I often think the same thing.

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming commented Thursday, 15 Feb 2018 at 4:34pm

Seems they actually hang on the east side of the prom running towards south coast NSW, must be lots of seals on all those rock islands of Bass strait?

Ada gula, ada semut!

mackdog's picture
mackdog's picture
mackdog commented Thursday, 15 Feb 2018 at 8:02pm

Reports of a big GWS on the surfcoast close to surfers last weekend and having a munch on a seal. Instagram @vandasurf

TOS's picture
TOS's picture
TOS commented Thursday, 15 Feb 2018 at 4:56pm

I'm sure i recall seeing a few GWS getting captured in the nets off Ballina when they were first introduced. Thats going off the Dorsal App. Im guessing you would know Freeride?

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Thursday, 15 Feb 2018 at 8:19pm

that is correct. Big one too, 4m.

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba commented Thursday, 15 Feb 2018 at 5:18pm

Indo and FP im pretty sure the Prom is part of the breeding ground down there,sure i read that in the past.As for drum lines i think they are more effective than nets but it seems as though around Coffs Harbour they have been removed in the last week......so is this the same at Forster and Ballina?

simba

Wharfjunkie's picture
Wharfjunkie's picture
Wharfjunkie commented Thursday, 15 Feb 2018 at 5:37pm

Are GWS good eating?

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba commented Thursday, 15 Feb 2018 at 6:09pm

small ones would be....flake...

simba

TOS's picture
TOS's picture
TOS commented Thursday, 15 Feb 2018 at 8:40pm

Yeah i thought so. I guess these guys only tell u what they want u to hear....

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Thursday, 15 Feb 2018 at 8:44pm

Ballina drums lines are still there but they will debait the hooks and not check the gear while this swell is on because they won't be able to get over the bar

Mort's picture
Mort's picture
Mort commented Thursday, 15 Feb 2018 at 11:08pm

Ha Haaa! This I say the White Shark, you dumb shark, you.

Mort's picture
Mort's picture
Mort commented Thursday, 15 Feb 2018 at 11:14pm

The one time you came into my dream, you were casual, I thank you for that. You did look quite imposing. It was like me and my mates were spearfishing of Peren Point in Rockingham. I had gone a bit further than I should have, just to prove myself. You, came out of nowhere, like a satellite that was going to the Moon. You scared me.

We were shit spearfishermen.

Mort's picture
Mort's picture
Mort commented Thursday, 15 Feb 2018 at 11:16pm

Braceletts, wrist and legs, board device, jetski maybe, Naaah.

Mort's picture
Mort's picture
Mort commented Thursday, 15 Feb 2018 at 11:57pm

I like the picture of the shark , it is nothing like the one in my dreams.

Mort's picture
Mort's picture
Mort commented Friday, 16 Feb 2018 at 12:03am

She is suspended, moving, not effortlessly, she is moving. She comes out of nowhere, not the deep, but maybe fifteen, twenty down.

Like she has caught you with your pants down. She has all this computer shit in her head.

She darts off, typical.

I throw a fist at her.

Mort's picture
Mort's picture
Mort commented Friday, 16 Feb 2018 at 12:36am

Man, a major fishing rig.

Nick Ellison's picture
Nick Ellison's picture
Nick Ellison commented Friday, 16 Feb 2018 at 10:56am

Reckon Mort has been been on the acid?

Enjoy_The_Glide's picture
Enjoy_The_Glide's picture
Enjoy_The_Glide commented Friday, 16 Feb 2018 at 4:44pm

Yes looks like Mort's on the gear.

surfingmaciek's picture
surfingmaciek's picture
surfingmaciek commented Saturday, 17 Feb 2018 at 7:14am

Here's an idea, with all these sharks tagged why don't the life savers get the real live location of the sharks in their beach/area so they can sound the shark alarm? Is this too far a leap in the technology? Maybe even a phone call from the Science dept. to the local SLSC?
I realise theres still a lot of sharks that are un-tagged but its a start right?

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