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Byron Shire
February 28, 2021

Calls to remove shark nets state wide

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The shark net protest at last year’s Quiksilver Pro surfing contest is set to be repeated today (March 14). Photo Dean Jefferys

Scout Wallen

A new report into the effectiveness of shark nets has prompted member for Ballina, Tamara Smith, to call for the removal of all NSW shark nets. 

Ms Smith referred to the shark net program as an ‘abject failure’, saying that this new report highlights the ‘damming science into the politics of shark nets’. 

Published by the University of Wollongong and led by Dr Leah Gibbs, the report, Effects and effectiveness of lethal shark hazard management: The Shark Meshing (Bather Protection) Program, found that there was no concrete evidence that lethal shark hazard management is effective. 

Alternatively, the report concludes that the occurrence of shark attacks is a combination of biophysical and socio-cultural changes, and that linking the reduction of shark attacks to shark nets is an oversimplification of a larger issue. 

The end of shark nets in Ballina?

This pivotal report highlights that socio-cultural factors heavily influence the incidence of shark bites, including population growth, beach culture, beach patrol and improved emergency and medical responses.  

Ballina councillor, Keith Williams, hopes that this report will see the end of shark nets in the Ballina shire indefinitely. 

‘This was always the argument that we had locally: shark nets don’t work, they give people a false sense of security and that is actually dangerous in itself,’ said Mr WIlliams.

Jonathan Clark, a shark campaigner for sea shepherd, announced that this report simply confirms previous reports and inquiries into the matter of lethal shark mitigation strategies.

A ray caught in netting that is meant to deter sharks. (Sea Shepherd)

‘Sea Shepherd is very much advocating for a solutions-based approach rather than the lethal methods of shark bite mitigation,’ said Mr Clark.

‘Shark nets are detrimental to the environment and absolutely do not make people safer; we can do that using other modern technologies.’

Impacts on other species

The report highlighted that non-targeted species represent the vast majority of animals who are caught in the shark nets. 

‘The report by Dr Gibbs provided overwhelming scientific certainty that shark nets are a false panacea…and result in a vast number of deaths of non-targeted species such as rays, turtles, dolphins and endangered shark species,’ said Ms Smith.

Between 2017-2018, 20 grey nurse sharks, an endangered species, were caught in the nets, 10 of which were found dead. 

Looking towards the future

Looking towards the future, the report noted that increased concern about shark nets have led investment in non-lethal techniques. 

‘We need to fast track non-lethal shark mitigation strategies like shark smart technologies and drone surveillance technologies because they can make a real difference to public safety and environmental protection,’ said Ms Smith.

‘I am calling on the NSW government to remove shark meshing across the state because they are not working and they are killing marine life.’


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  1. Number of shark deaths since nets were installed at Bondi: 0. Why don’t people like Tamara Smith (who can get away with not implementing any of her promises because she will never be in government) want is on the north coast to be as safe as ocean swimmers in Sydney? I’ll take empirical evidence any day.

    • The elephant in the room for the north coast are the beach buried whales below the water table. Natural springs carry fats, oils, blood and highly scented chemical attractants across the beach into surf zones. It is a no brainier for the north coast being a hot spot for human-shark interactions. No net or drumline set on the north coast is going to provide safety for those who surf away from patrolled beaches. It’s beach patrols, modern ambulance services and use of alternative technologies to nets and drumlines that is keeping the increasing number of ocean users safer than what might be predicted from the previous little scientific data that is available. Personal safety devices work. Example on YouTube with search words: DiveCareDare electronic.

  2. This barbaric practice has no justification !
    The tourist industry promotes this stupidity in order to alleviate the fears of the gutless, who have not the courage of their convictions. After all is said and done it is the willingness to confront nature, and it’s danger, that separates the warriors from the whimps !
    Cheers G”)

  3. “‘The report by Dr Gibbs provided overwhelming scientific certainty that shark nets are a false panacea…and result in a vast number of deaths of non-targeted species such as rays, turtles, dolphins and endangered shark species,’ said Ms Smith.”

    Actually the conclusion that netting (in Newcastle Sydney Wollongong) has protected surfers (and allowed the rise and rise of Australian surf culture) since 1937 when they were first installed (the last death at a Sydney ocean beach being in 1936) can also be drawn from this study.
    The effect on non – target species is regrettable.

    This “false panacea” is more likely to those people (who move from these protected areas to regional un-netted surfing spots like Byron – Ballina) who believe they are still safe in the water.


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