Shark attack fears cause drop in life saver numbers

A PARLIAMENTARY inquiry into shark attacks on the North Coast has found no scientific evidence populations of the predators have increased.

But as the saying goes, perception is reality - and some coastal tourism groups and related organisations copped a kicking when shark attack panic was in full swing.

"Ballina Lighthouse and Lismore Surf Life Saving Club estimated that membership had fallen by 15%, in part because of the fear members had of responding to a traumatic shark bite," Ballina MP Tamara Smith told parliament.

There were 14 shark attacks at Byron Bay and Ballina, including two deaths, between September 2014 and the end of last year.

The committee's report was completed in June but was only this week presented to parliament after the winter break.

It found a third of Ballina businesses reported some impact from the area's cluster of shark attacks, but caravan parks and some other accommodation vendors were particularly hard hit.

"I am proud that my community called for an approach to shark management that seeks to protect both ocean users and our marine biodiversity rather than to cull sharks," Ms Smith said.

"On behalf of my community I thank the Minister for Primary Industries and the Premier for listening to us and for providing the resources to trial non-lethal deterrents.

"My sincere appreciation goes out to every surf lifesaving volunteer, jet boat rescue crew member and marine rescue worker who continues to serve our community no matter what the conditions.

"I recognise the family and friends of (shark attack victims) Paul Wilcox and Tadashi Nakahara and all those who have been touched by their shark-related deaths."

The inquiry recommended further research into the impact of shark attacks on tourism and related industries such as surf lifesaving. -ARM NEWSDESK

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