Get out of the water: Catholic Diocese of Lismore ban on surfing at beaches without shark nets

No surfing: The Catholic Diocese of Lismore has banned surfing and surf-related activities for its students.
No surfing: The Catholic Diocese of Lismore has banned surfing and surf-related activities for its students.

The Catholic Diocese of Lismore has placed a ban on parish schools conducting surfing and surf-related activities at beaches not protected by shark nets.

The ban is effective immediately.

The decision to ban water-based events in open waters is a response to the threat of “shark encounters” and was outlined in a three part memo distributed to its school principals earlier this month.

The Lismore Diocese includes Catholic schools from Port Macquarie through to the Queensland border.

The memo was issued to principals on February 1 after an independent risk assessment was conducted.

Schools can still host ocean-based events and activities, according to the memo, if:

  • The events are held at beaches protected with either nets or smart drumlines; 
  • Drones are used at the events; and, 
  • If no nets or smart lines are present, then the event should not proceed.

We will be guided by the advice and recommendations included in the memo during our discussions.

John McQueen

Port Macquarie's beaches do not have nets or smart drumlines. There is a shark detecting beacon off Lighthouse Beach that monitors tagged sharks in the area.

A shark detector is located off Lighthouse Beach while lifeguards and surf life savers regularly provide surveillance on most days. A drone is accessible in cases where a shark is spotted on any local beach.

Co-ordinating executive officer for education at St Agnes' Parish, John McQueen, said surfing and surf lifesaving activities are usually only offered as part of the sports curriculum at the Parish’s secondary schools.

“Our parish is part of the Lismore Diocese and the matter is due to be discussed at the next meeting of the Parish’s Secondary School Principals in a few weeks,” Mr McQueen said.

“We will be guided by the advice and recommendations included in the memo during our discussions."

Lighthouse buoy: This shark detection buoy sits in the waters of Lighthouse Beach, visible to the public. Photo: NSW Department of Primary Industries.

Lighthouse buoy: This shark detection buoy sits in the waters of Lighthouse Beach, visible to the public. Photo: NSW Department of Primary Industries.

The NSW Department of Primary Industries’ (DPI) six month trial of SMART drumlines has concluded off Coffs Harbour-Sawtell and Forster-Tuncurry beaches on the mid-north coast of NSW.

DPI’s Fisheries research director, Dr Natalie Moltschaniwskyj said SMART drumlines have been deployed daily since August 2017.

“In the first five months of the trial, DPI caught, tagged and released 64 sharks at Forster-Tuncurry and an additional 15 at Coffs Harbour,” Dr Moltschaniwskyj said.

“Preliminary findings from the trial suggest once tagged the sharks - mostly juveniles and sub-adults – then stay in deeper offshore waters for up to four weeks before rejoining their counterparts in their general movements north and south.

“The other important finding is that there is no such thing as a residential shark. Most individuals appear to hang around for a day or so, but then they move on.”

SMART drumlines send a message to researchers when a shark takes the baited hook under a float. Sharks are then fitted with an acoustic tag and released one kilometre off the beach and tracked using satellite and listening stations.

These results will inform how to continue with the use and roll out of shark management technology across the state.

The NSW government’s Shark Management Strategy is trialing a number of shark mitigation technologies, along with SMART Drumlines, including the use of drones and helicopters for aerial surveillance and tagging and tracking sharks.

Breakthrough CSIRO research reveals 5500 great white sharks live off Australia's east coast (File).

Breakthrough CSIRO research reveals 5500 great white sharks live off Australia's east coast (File).

According to the Taronga Conservation Society Australia, the Australian shark attack file investigated 19 reported incidents of shark-human interaction in 2017 - this was seven less than the 26 incidents reported in the previous year.

Of those 19 incidents - listed as unprovoked - five were reported in NSW, three in Queensland, one in Victoria and six in Western Australia. A further four incidents were listed as provoked.

Around 5500 great white sharks are in the waters off Australia's east coast, according to new research by the CSIRO has revealed.

The organisation estimates there are about 750 adults in waters off Victoria's southern coast, up to central Queensland and across to New Zealand.

Taking juvenile sharks into account, researchers believe the total east coast population sits at 5460 - but it could be as high as 12,800.

There is no scientific study I know of people making the link between numbers of sharks and people being attacked by them.

CSIRO scientist Richard Hillary

It is estimated another 1460 adult white sharks live off Australia's south-western coast, but a total calculation is yet to be made.

Widespread publicity around shark attacks, particularly off NSW's north coast, often prompts calls for culls, nets and other counter-measures.

But the paper's lead researcher, CSIRO scientist Richard Hillary, said there was no documented evidence backing up a link between attacks and shark numbers.

"We did not look at the risk of shark attacks," he told AAP.

"There is no scientific study I know of people making the link between numbers of sharks and people being attacked by them."

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