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Byron Shire
May 8, 2021

Local activists dive deep to debunk shark nets ‘myth’

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A local activist comes up after swimming beneath the shark net at Lennox Head
A local activist comes up after swimming beneath the shark net at Lennox Head

Local activists have swum under the newly-installed shark nets at Lennox Head to draw attention to the apparent ‘futility’ of the devices.

Dean Jeffreys led a small group of banner-bearing conservationists out to the nets on November 25, diving about 10 metres down to duck beneath them.

‘If humans can do it sharks can too,’ said Mr Jeffrey’s, the captain of the well-known conservation vessel, Migaloo 2.

‘We swam under the shark nets … to dispel the fallacy that shark nets make you safe.

‘It’s time for more effective non lethal alternatives to be implemented. We also had a drone up to film and observe any shark activity which is what every surf club in Australia should be doing and be funded for, rather than DPI [the NSW Department of Primary Industries] wasting money perpetuating the shark net lie.’

The nets were installed on November 23 at five beaches in Lennox Head, Evans Head and Ballina as part of a trial being run by the NSW government.

Each net is approximately 150 metres long and six metres high, which leaves large gaps that activists believe sharks can easily swim through.

The oppose the trial, now in its second year, because of the many non-target animals such as rays, turtles and dolphins which are caught.

Of the 275 animals caught during last year’s trial, just nine were target sharks.

More than half of the other animals that were caught in the nets could not be freed.

The Department of Primary Industries has made a number of changes to the nets this year in a bid to reduce the amount of bycatch, including changing the size of the netting used and placing the nets higher in the water.

A survey conducted in the towns where the nets have been deployed found that a significant proportion of the local community are in favour the use of the nets.

Supporters often point to the fact that there has only been one fatality at a netted beach anywhere in Australia since they were first introduced more than 90 years ago.

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  1. Actually the quote often thrown around by the DPI is that here has been only one shark attack death at netted beaches between Newcastle and Woolongong in the last 50 years. What they don’t tell you in their reckless use of statistics is that there have been 47 unwanted shark encounters at these ‘netted’ beaches or that surf lifesavers also patrol and observe these beaches and give shark warnings. The recent shark encounter that happened at the “netted” beach at Avoca earlier this month could have been avoided if the surf club had a drone in the air as it happened right infront of the shark tower but the tower wasn’t high enough to see the shark. Every Surf club in Australia should have a Drone with an alarm system and training instead of waisting money on ineffective shark nets that are not a barrier and sit about 500 meters out. How some people think that is going to stop a shark defies logic. And those perpetuating this line … I believe give people a false sense of security and are being reckless and irresponsible.

  2. Thank you Dean for pointing out MANY “floors”of NSW SHARK NETS which are a disgrace in the 21st century. The Technology is out there BUT DPI is still “WORKING” in the 19th Century and oblivions of the BYE catch which exceeds the SHARK catch.

  3. The problem with this silly none sense is that these people ignore, conveniently, the facts. 1. It is not the net per se, it is the electronic signals that a trapped or distressed shark emits. It is that that panic signal from one ensnared shark that drives the others away, and the sharks don’t take those signals lightly, (see research out of California). One shark saves many sharks perhaps, but also saves innocent swimmers on the beaches. 2. Bend it or slant it, the facts remain that netted beaches have a lot lower victim count than unprotected beaches that makes a lot of people, including Surf Lifesavers a lot more safe and happy. 3. The sharks have billions of cubic klm to hunt and kill and eat I, our kids etc only need a very thin strip along the foreshore and none more than 150 m long. Anybody who thinks that is unfair to the sharks has rocks between their ears.

  4. As you say Glenn – education of the facts is the key. Struggling – of any kind – will produce low frequency energy that is shown to attract sharks. Its a trick I’ve used diving from time to time and is alarmingly effective and bring sharks when I didn’t think there were any around.

    ( for you reference a paper by Dr Gruber in Bimini : http://www.ocr.org/ocr/pdfs/papers/Nelson_and_Gruber_Shark_Hearing.pdf )

    It’s important to understand as much as possible about the situation. Your third point is a predicated on common held but erroneous belief that all sea life is uniformly distributed throughout the ocean. The truth is – as always- complex. Sharks for example will use mangroves as nurseries – so destroying a mangrove will disproportionately effect them and the other species that use them.

    Shark nets are an outdated, ineffective, inaccurate method of dealing with a problem – we would be better off focusing on a proportionate , accurate and scientific solution rather than pandering to fear and misinformation .


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