Shark patrollers slam bureacrats

Bendigo Bank Aerial Patrol pilot Andrew Jones and observer Arty Zearo search the Illawarra coast for sharks. Picture: Andrew Pearson

Bendigo Bank Aerial Patrol pilot Andrew Jones and observer Arty Zearo search the Illawarra coast for sharks. Picture: Andrew Pearson

An aerial patrol has issued a scathing assessment of how the NSW Department of Primary Industries manages sharks along the state’s coast. 

The Illawarra-based red and yellow shark-spotting plane has been the eye in the sky over South Coast’s beaches, as far as the southern Shoalhaven, despite receiving no state government funding, for almost 60 years.  

Now the Bendigo Bank patrol and registered charity wants to ensure protecting beachgoers includes “more than just in-water mitigation options”.

In its submission to a Parliamentary Inquiry into the management of sharks in NSW waters, patrol general manager Harry Mitchell slammed the DPI for its apparent lack of interest in aerial surveillance. 

“The NSW DPI Fisheries has spent the better part of a decade building a case against aerial patrols and doing little to investigate alternatives to beach meshing,” Mr Mitchell wrote.

“The recent interest in alternatives is solely due to the intervention of the state’s Premier [Mike Baird].” 

The Baird government announced a five-year, $16 million, NSW Shark Management Strategy on October 25. It will test shark detection and deterrent technologies, increased aerial surveillance, research programs and community awareness campaigns.

The strategy includes a “significant increase in funding for aerial patrols of NSW beaches”, a DPI spokeswoman said.

The service has suggested patrols be extended. It now continues to Mollymook, stopping short of the Eurobodalla Coast.

“The state government is not being served well by having [the] shark issue managed by the research arm of DPI Fisheries,” he wrote. 

“This agency is not using the existing assets and goodwill … (or) initiating research on alternatives to beach meshing, nor taken an interest in working with others.”

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