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NSW to rush shark nets after Byron attack

AAP logoAAP 23/10/2016 Scott Bailey

The six-month trial of shark nets on the notorious NSW north coast will be fast-tracked after another surfer was lucky to survive an attack near Byron Bay.

Jade Fitzpatrick, 36, escaped with three puncture wounds to his upper thigh when his surfboard bore the brunt of the attack off a beach between Suffolk Park and Broken Head around 7.30am on Monday.

The attack is the third in a month, prompting Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair to announce he would introduce legislation in a bid to have the nets installed before the summer school holidays despite fears they could capture and kill other marine life.

"We understand that marine life is important, but human life is more important," he said.

The announcement came after NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley attacked Premier Mike Baird and the government for not already implementing the same type of nets that protect Sydney's beaches.

"You just have to put human life first, but Mr Baird's dithering has led to yet another shark attack off the waters in northern NSW," he said.

The move came as Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce warned the frequency of shark attacks in the region would deter tourists.

"Mums and dads make a decision about where the kids swim and even if it's incredibly low risk, it still worries people and they make a decision with their wallet because of it," he said in Brisbane.

However, Byron Shire Council opposes the trial because of concerns about what it will do the region's marine life and has called for better spotting programs.

"Our beaches are part of a marine park and since November last year, we've consistently requested support from the NSW government for non-lethal shark mitigation measures," mayor Simon Richardson said.

"This includes land shark-spotter programs and aerial surveillance patrols with drones or gyrocopters."

Hundreds gathered in Ballina on Sunday to protest the implementation of nets less than 24 hours before the latest attack.

Meanwhile Aaron Hoffman, who was in the water during Monday's attack, said he favoured a targeted shark cull rather than netting.

"I'd be more in favour of a sustainable, targeted cull if that was proven to be as good."

Another man, Geoffrey Knapp, who gave first aid to the victim, said neither netting nor a cull should be an option.

"It's about awareness - it's not about culling sharks," he told ABC radio.

Mr Fitzpatrick made his way to Byron Central Hospital with the help of a friend, with witnesses saying he was able to walk into the emergency department, and has since been discharged.

It's not yet known what species of shark was involved, but a number of great whites have been detected along the coast in the past week.

All beaches across Byron Bay will be closed until at least Tuesday morning.

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