Billionaire businessman Sir Richard Branson has added his voice to calls to remove shark nets from beaches in New South Wales and Queensland.
The founder of the Virgin group, who is also an advocate for oceans, said killing sharks for behaving like sharks made no sense.
His comments come as the Senate Inquiry into Shark Mitigation and Deterrent Measures continues today in Sydney.
‘We need to learn how to live safely with sharks, rather than killing them,’ Sir Richard said.
‘We need to adopt non-lethal control methods including public education campaigns so that people understand when interactions with sharks may be at a peak, and aerial spotting and shark spotter programs.
‘By removing sharks from ecosystems, the natural food web is broken which damages ecosystem health, undermines food security, hurts the health of the ocean and reduces tourism dollars too.’
The issue of shark nets has caused divisions in northern rivers communities, with nets being installed at Ballina, Lennox Head and Evans Head. Byron Shire Council has rejected the use of nets and has instead supported a Shark Watch program.
In its latest by-catch report for the North Coast Shark Net trial , the Department of Primary Industries said the meshing netted 34 individual animals across seven species in the past month.
Of that number, 53 per cent were released alive and 47 per cent were found dead and had tissue samples retained for analyses.
No target shark species were caught, however, two hammer head sharks were found, one was dead as well as a blacktip shark.
The other hammerhead shark was released alive.
Humane Society International Australia scientist Jessica Morris said shark nets were ineffective at protecting the public.
‘Not only do shark nets and drumlines kill thousands of endangered marine animals, they are also ineffective at protecting the public and are out of date,’ Ms Morris said.
‘In fact, in New South Wales 65 per cent of shark bites occur at netted beaches.
‘It’s time to invest in non-lethal strategies to give swimmers peace of mind about sharks, including the installation of eco-barriers and increased aerial surveillance of beaches.’
At today’s Senate Inquiry, HSI will present information on the capture of more than 5,000 marine turtles in the Queensland shark control program between 2001 and 2013, including the shocking statistic of 442 loggerhead turtles, a species threatened with extinction.