A beach crew worked by hand to drag the shark barrier down the beach to the water.
A beach crew worked by hand to drag the shark barrier down the beach to the water. Hamish Broome

'Volatile' sand spelt shark barrier's demise, says designer

UPDATE 12.30pm: AN EXPOSED concrete block supposed to anchor the Lennox Head shark barrier on the sea bed ultimately caused its demise, according to the man who led the project.

Global Marine Enclosures director Ed Khoury said a slack section of the barrier scraped the edges of one of the 2.4 tonne concrete blocks until it tore through. 

"On Friday night the weather was really strong and the swell was high," Mr Khoury explained.

"We went to swim through as we do every second day just to check everything was okay, and we found that the sand that was (under) the block had completely scaled away and it was sitting on 'coffee' rock.

"The block is supposed to be buried under the sand, but the sand's been scoured away... And what you have is this barrier draped over the block, skirting over it and destroying it.

"The barrier had skirted over the block a number of times during the night, and it actually just ripped the bottom of the barrier away."

Mr Khoury said he knew immediately that the project wasn't viable with the current design, given the unforgiving conditions at Seven Mile Beach.

"This ground is so volatile, it just doesn't stop moving," he said.

"And it's not as if it moves every week or every month, it moves just about every day. You go there and it's completely different under the water.

"It's not a viable proposition if that's how dramatic the changes are underwater."

"We need to address the problem and we need to come back with a better method of fixing the barrier to the ground.

Mr Khoury said the company was already considering using a disc-shaped concrete block just 30cm high but much broader, which wouldn't damage the barrier in a similar situation.

He remained positive saying it was a trial and the company had learned a lot from the process.

He said the barrier passed with "flying colours" when it was tested in a tank at a university, "but you now you put in a real situation, and then all the rules change, everything's different."

"It's all about getting the understanding of what is need to make this principle work in the ocean and this was a very good opportunity to do that.

"I take my hat off to the State Government for taking the plunge and doing it."

Global Marine Enclosures was now working on a "third generation" barrier, while the second generation prototype was still operational at Albany in Western Australia after seven months. 

He was confident demand for the product would continue.

"Whether there are sharks or not, in your mind you go in the water and you feel you're going to get attacked so you're not enjoying the experience," Mr Khoury said. "What you want to do is create an environment where people can enjoy the experience."

UPDATE, 9.45am: IN A statement, the NSW Department of Primary Industries has confirmed the Lennox Head shark barrier trial has been "discontinued". 

"Global Marine Enclosures advised the DPI yesterday of its intention to terminate the project and remove the barrier from Seven Mile Beach," the statement said.

"Following big ocean swells, the Eastern Wall of the Aquarius Barrier broke free from the ground chain and is being removed.

"The Department of Primary Industries has started the process of discontinuing the shark barrier trial at Lennox Head.

"The trial was one of two aimed at testing whether exclusion barrier technology could be used in Australian east coast conditions."

The DPI said both the Lennox Head barrier and the previously cancelled Lighthouse Beach barrier at Ballina "failed the first test of safe and effective instalment".

Any further barrier trials are off the table. 

"NSW DPI will continue to work closely with the local community to explore complementary shark mitigation technologies included in the strategy and suited to local conditions," it said.

"The strategy includes aerial surveillance, a shark tagging program and related VR4G listening stations, and trials of smart drumlines, sonar 'Clever Buoys' and drone surveillance.

UPDATE, 8am: THE MAN responsible for designing and directing the construction of the Lennox Head Shark Barrier has confirmed the project has been officially terminated.

Ed Khoury, director of Perth-based Global Marine Enclosures, said he was left with no choice to end the project after a significant amount of sand movement in the last week had compromised the structure.

An official statement will be released at 9am. 

ORIGINAL STORY: BAD news for those hoping to see a trial shark barrier soon installed at Lennox Head.

A recent post on the Lennox Head Chamber of Commerce Facebook page said NSW Department of Primary Industries has been advised by the manufacturers that sand movement and swell have impacted the installation.

"The Eastern Wall of the Aquarius Barrier has broken free from the ground chain and will be removed by Global Marine Enclosures (GME)," the post said.

"We are now in the process of working with GME to discontinue the shark barrier trial."

Despite the disappointment of the failed trial the chamber made a reminder that the trial was aimed at testing whether exclusion barrier technology could be used in east coast conditions in Australia.

"We are committed to continuing to work closely with you and the local community to explore complementary shark mitigation technologies included in our strategy that may be suited to local conditions,"


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