It has undoubtedly been a bit a of a rough month for surfers on the north coast of New South Wales. Images have been posted of #surferlivesmatter graffiti appearing in the Ballina / Byron area, as local debate heats up about the installation of shark nets, and the NSW Parliament considers a bill mandating their introduction.

There have been four shark attacks along a one kilometre stretch of coastline at Ballina – including one fatal attack – and local surfers are demanding action. On the other hand, hundreds gathered on Lighthouse Beach yesterday to protest the introduction of the nets, claiming that their are non-lethal alternatives which won’t injure sharks and other marine life.

#SurferLivesMatter Tag Appears Near Byron As Shark Net Debate Heats Up

Image: Twitter / Rochelle Ferris.

“The question we’re facing here is whether wildlife is more important than human life, and I’m conflicted over the answer to that myself,” Australian Seabird Rescue spokeswoman Rochelle Ferris told the ABC“We want our kids to be safe, and we also love and respect our environment and want to protect that.”

Aboriginal advocacy Facebook page Blackfulla Revolution posted a photo of the #surferlivesmatter hashtag, asking for thoughts from the page’s members. Obviously, anything that plays on Black Lives Matter is going to be loaded – not least because it is often used as a means of deliberately undermining the concerns of black advocates in the United States and abroad.

Obviously there are more productive ways to agitate for change than appropriating #BlackLivesMatter, unless you’re just trying to be provocative and drag what is already a very delicate situation down into the dirt.

The comments are exactly the kind of shitshow you’d imagine – with legions of people who don’t seem particularly onboard with the concerns of the Black Lives Matter movement piling in to prosecute their grievances – but they also reveal a general vibe about shark nets from those opposed to them: if you want to surf, you need to acknowledge the risk.

Local Greens MP Tamara Smith has proposed an alternative shark watching program, which is utilised to some extent in Australia but widely deployed in South Africa, which has enormous numbers of great whites off its shores. “I believe shark spotting, [its] 13-year track record in South Africa, is a great model of that,” she said.

“We’ve got that here in Ballina with Shark Watch ready to go.”

Looks like this situation is only going to get more heated as the Government begins its planned shark net trial.

Source: Facebook / ABC

Photo: Facebook / Blackfulla Revolution.