Shark barrier gone, environment concerns linger

4 October 2016
Trial discontinued at Lennox Head beach. Credit: Nada van Kempen
Trial discontinued at Lennox Head beach. Credit: Nada van Kempen

The loss of the shark barrier trial at Lennox Head on the NSW north coast has created another eco issue for the community.  

Debris from the failed barrier was found washed ashore creating concern for the safety of local marine life.

Global Marine Enclosure was the company responsible for manufacturing and installing the Aquarius Barrier at Lennox Head’s Seven Mile Beach.

Managing Director Edward Khoury said in a statement that it was the "most devastating outcome" of a project that he had encountered in his "35 years of industrial design".

“It was just very, very difficult. Based on two other installations we thought this part would be similar, maybe a little harder, but it was much, much harder to install this barrier,” he said.

The Lennox Head barrier was close to being completed on September 13 when the installation team discovered problems.

“We sent the divers out to have a look, just to confirm that all the stainless steel shackles and everything were in place with the connection between the two barriers,” said Mr Khoury.

“And when they came back they said, ‘You just don’t want to hear this’.”

Due to the unpredictable movements on the seabed, the structure which held the barrier had become exposed from underneath the sand, damaging the barrier and resulting in the termination of the installation process.

Failure 'heartbreaking' for barrier company director

Mr Khoury described the problem with the debris breaking off the failed barrier and washing up on the shore as "heartbreaking", due to his personal stance as an environmentalist.

After seeing the breaking of the barrier and consequent debris that washed ashore, Mr Khoury assisted in the clean up to help minimise the impact on the marine life and the Lennox Head community.

Mr Khoury said that he wanted to be sure that the remnants of the project were not left to harm the environment.

“I don’t want to affect or hurt or even spoil the environment,” Mr Khoury said.

Ballina Shire Mayor, David Wright and Mr Khoury shared community concern about the debris, however they assured that it was being cleaned up.  

“Any debris has impact on marine life and that’s why they’re taking it seriously,”  Cr Wright said.

“I personally walked up there and haven’t seen very much debris. There were some buoys and some broken yellow sort of tags earlier, but that’s all been cleaned up,” Cr Wright said.

"The only other bits would be small pieces of virtually fishing line and they’re collecting those every day.” 

The Australian Seabird Rescue were contacted for comment, however declined to be interviewed.

The barrier itself has been removed, however the company is yet to remove the large concrete blocks and anchors that would have held it in place, a process which Mr Khoury acknowledges will not be easy.

With Ballina's Lighthouse Beach shark barrier failure, and now the removal of the barrier at Lennox Head, the community has been left without the planned shark protection.

A point pressed home by another shark attack

Surfer Cooper Allen, 17, was attacked by what is thought to be a great white shark on September 26 at Lighthouse Beach – the location of the first failed barrier.

On October 1, a white shark was spotted thrashing in the waves at a Lennox Head beach just metres from the shore with another being sighted close to shore on October 4.

Cr Wright says there will be no tangible protection like a barrier on the Lennox Head beaches, other than surveillance.

In regards to implementing nets or approaching the idea of a cull, Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg's office told ABC's Hack program in a statement, "if a state government was to put a proposal to the Federal Government" he would consider it "on its merits with an eye to putting human safety first".

Although disappointed by the result of the initial trial, Global Marine Enclosure is determined to return to Lennox Head one day to provide the protection that the community seemingly needs.

Mr Khoury emphasised that September's attempt was a trial, and that he will not give up.

“I want to go there one day and say, 'Guys, here’s a barrier. It's going to work. This is for you.' It is a challenge, and it is difficult, but I won’t give up.”



*Thumbnail Image Credit: Flickr/Elias Levy