Shark nets provide peace of mind for Coast swimmers
HEATH Williamson has never had a fear of sharks, nor given much thought to them whenever he hit the beach for a swim.
But now that he has children, Mr Williamson does find himself conscious of choosing safer locations when taking Fred, 4, and Hugh, 6, to the beach.
This makes the Sunshine Coast an attractive destination for the Brisbane family when looking for a weekend getaway or even a day trip, with the majority of beaches lined with shark nets.
The debate pitting their effectiveness and the danger shark nets pose to marine life reared its head last week when Nicole McLachlan staged a hunger strike with the aim of forcing the State Government to abandon its shark-control program by removing shark nets and drumlines.
Mr Williamson said removing shark nets would not only compromise the safety of swimmers, but also cause a legal nightmare if someone were to then be attacked and decided to sue.
"We have become such a litigious country now," he said.
"It's a fine line between looking at the safety of humans versus the safety of the sharks.
"Mooloolaba has not had any shark incidents and there is a reason for that. I wouldn't take my kids somewhere like Ballina."
Wife Diana said she felt much safer taking the family to beaches like Mooloolaba that had shark nets.
"I never had that fear of sharks, but travelling around the US, it's something Americans ask you about all the time," Mr Williamson said.
On Friday, Queensland Fisheries Minister Leanne Donaldson re-iterated there would be no changes to the Government's successful shark-control program.
"We have a duty to protect swimmers at our most popular beaches and I will not compromise on human safety," Ms Donaldson said.
"Prior to the introduction of nets and drumlines there were 20 fatal shark attacks at beaches now protected by the program.
"Successive governments have recognised the vital role the shark-control program has played in protecting human life at those beaches which attract tourists from all over the world and throughout the year.
"Indeed since 1962, despite a big increase in the number of people swimming at those beaches, there has been only one fatality."
Throughout Ms McLachlan's nine-day protest, Ms Donaldson said she would not concede to demands to invest $16 million a year into researching non-lethal shark control and the removal of shark nets and drumlines.
"I listened to what she had to say, but I will not be swayed by publicity stunts," Ms Donaldson said.
"The Government will continue to look at advances in technology and improvements to the program to protect marine life, but they must be thoroughly tested to ensure they keep people safe."
DO YOU FEEL SAFER WITH SHARK NETS?
Steph Aspinall: "FOR us humans, they are a good idea, but it would be goot to look at other ideas that could save sharks too."
Katy Tomlinson: "A LOT of people say they are not effective because sharks can still swim under them but I feel safer with the nets there."