Shark net trial: What's the verdict so far?
TWO-thirds of the way through the Ballina shark net trials, support remains strong from residents, surfers, tourists and business owners.
Since the nets were installed in early December 2016, the topic has been a barbecue-stopper, with some concerned about by-catch, while others argue vehemently about looking after people ahead of marine life.
With just two months to go, opinions still vary but it seems the majority of comments while regretful about by-catch, appear to support nets as a way to guarantee human safety and the town's viability.
Ballina mayor Cr David Wright spoke at the Senate shark mitigation hearing inquiry on Tuesday and said he believed the shark nets helped keep Ballina going over the summer.
He said the nets only covered 600m of 30km of beaches but appeared to be doing their job.
"Between February 2015 and July 2016 we had nine per cent of the world's shark interaction, with and attacks in Ballina and this includes Evan's Head, sometimes three times a day," he said.
"The nets effect on tourism, on people coming to Ballina and people going into the water means the nets have played an incredibly positive effect."
Cr Wright spoke at the Senate shark mitigation hearing inquiry held at Byron Bay this week and said he never wanted anything that causes by-catch.
"I wanted shark nets put out in the morning and removed out at night as virtually all the by-catch is caught at night, but this was not possible," he said.
"Just to see the nippers back in the water, all the hundreds of little pink singlets, parents in the water and kids on their dad's was great."
Ballina Chamber of Commerce & Industry,spokesman Ray Karam, said the group had been been involved in stakeholder meeting on the nets all the way through.
"Over the Christmas period and April into May we have seen a good influx of people into the town," he said.
"Whether this is a direct result of the shark nets I can't say (but) it feel like a majority united on the issue, that something was needed short term for the viability of the town."
Mr Karam said it's vital the town looks after the people who live and work there.
"We are local people, employ local people and use local suppliers so we are all connected," he said.
"We are also looking at viability of technology and there a number of things coming up but in the meantime, we need action short term and this supported the town business-wise."
Le-Ba Boardriders president Don Munro, a passionate surfer and prominent advocate of the trial said human life must come before marine life and repeated his comment from the Senate inquiry, "no marine species has been wiped out due to these solutions".
According to DPI figures, during the report period of March 8 and April 7, the fourth month of the NSW North Coast Shark Meshing Trial saw nets deployed for totals of 16-26 days at five beaches.