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Byron Shire
May 19, 2024

Have your say on managing sharks off our coast

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Great White Shark, Great Australian Bight. Photo Brad Leue.

The natural territory of a shark is the ocean and while it is rare, there are shark attacks on humans. How we manage the human-shark interaction has changed over time from hunting down any shark we can find to netting beaches, SMART (Shark-Management-Alert-in-Real-Time) drumlines, tag and release and drone surveillance and warning systems. The annual survey of ‘local sentiments about the current approach’ is open until June 16 so that you can now have your say on the range ​​of shark mitigation measures currently in place along the NSW coast. 

Bull shark prior to release. Photo Nick Whitney

‘The NSW Government has committed more than $85 million to continue its Shark Management Program until 2026 and we want to engage the community to strike the right balance, to protect people with minimal harm to wildlife,’ said Member for Tweed, Geoff Provest.

In 2021 to 2022, the NSW Government committed $21.4 million to roll out successfully trialled technologies along the NSW coastline.

These technologies include drone surveillance, SMART drumlines and shark listening stations which detect and track tagged animals while issuing alerts to the public.

The Government also announced a boost of $4.4 million in the same period, for additional mitigation methods, as well as ongoing funding to continue the overarching program. 

A Mobula Ray caught in a shark net off Shelly Beach. Photo contributed

Netting problems

Traditional approaches like netting have seen significant protest from local Northern Rivers communities as they come with significant problems, particularly in relation to the capture of turtles, whales, and other unintended by-catch. 

In Queensland where there is still significant use of netting ‘Since 2011, at least 49 whales have been caught in these shark nets and on drumlines,’ said Sea Shepherd Australia’s Shark Campaigner Jonathan Clark in August 2021. 

Campaigners have recommended the removal of dangerous shark nets during the whale migration season.

A loggerhead turtle found caught in a shark net off Ballina’s Lighthouse Beach before it was rescued. Photo Sea Shepherd

Not just a killing machine 

Research into the feeding habits of sharks over recent years has revealed that sharks are not the undiscerning killing machines they are often promoted as. A report by Wendy Zukerman on the podcast Science Vs in 2020 took a look at sharks and their interactions with humans and highlighted that sharks are discerning hunters. 

‘Scientists in Australia and South Africa have observed great white sharks and bull sharks swimming near hundreds of people and they just don’t go after them,’ says Ms Zukerman.

This is supported by shark scientist Taylor Chapple who talked about his experience of tagging great whites near an island called Año Nuevo in California.

‘About half a mile from where I work is a surf spot. So I’ll have a day where there will be 6, 7, 8 up to 15 sharks swimming around my boat at one time and I can see a half mile away the guys in the line up surfing,’ said Mr Chapple.

‘And no one has ever been attacked at that spot. So, if those sharks wanted to eat us there would be very few surfers left in the water.’

‘Most of the time… sharks don’t go around chomping everything they see at every opportunity,’ explained Ms Zukerma.

‘They’re making some sort of calculation about what’s worth the effort… and it seems that in the vast, vast, vast majority of cases… humans – you and me – aren’t worth it for them.’ 

The survey is available on the NSW Shark Management Program: www.sharksmart.nsw.gov.au and takes no more than ten minutes to complete.


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10 COMMENTS

  1. Done.

    “Interesting” to use South African/Californian anecdotes when the attack/encounter data over the last 5 years conclusively proves that white sharks, especially juvenile/sub-adults are very much interested in humans in the water, especially surfers.

    RIP Tadashi, Mani, Rob, etc etc.

    Thankfully, the non-lethal mix of measure taken including Drones, Smart Drumlines and listening stations does seem to have enabled an uneasy co-existence between ocean users and our apex, opportunistic ambush predator which loves cruising in the surf zone aka the white shark.

    • Quite right Rodger, leave them alone, it is the idiots who advocate drum-lines, nets and death to anything that triggers the cowardly surfers and tourists, that need management. These types without the courage to actually face the reality of the ocean and won’t feel safe until it is as sterile and plastic as sea-world.
      Cheers, G”)

  2. I, of course want to say ‘Sea mines’, but shark attack really is not a thing.
    You should be a lot more worried in rivers than the ocean. Bull sharks are becoming a problem, but still not a segnificant one.
    If a shark attacks a human, kill it. If not, just scare it away. Put some fire crackers on those drones to drop in the water.
    Best leave the shark killing to Dolphins. Dolphins are sadistic bastards get a kick out of it.
    FYI we used to refer to Dophins as uncanned tuna, cause we had to have a joke for each animal.

    • Sharks are an important part of the ecosystem. Leave them alone. Water users eg surfers, are aware of the risk
      when they’re in the sharks’ territory.
      Why hunt down a shark that has attacked a human? How can it be ascertained that it’s the right shark?
      Humans can be so damn arrogant. Mother Nature has it sorted so stay
      out of it.

  3. I believe that drones can very effectively alert people to the presence of an investigating shark. Skip the nets, please! They’re wildlife killers and should be banned. I think a drone spotter can be employed through the lifeguards and the done simply needs a flag that reads “Shark in the water” or has a microphone so the spotter can tell swimmers or surfers that they may be in danger.

  4. You can’t have commercial fishing decimating the biomass of fish in the ocean by up to 80% and then protect the apex predators.
    Cull out the large sharks that come close to shore and try to keep some sort of balance to the already fragile and unsustainable eco system.There is enough attacks/research to determine the size of sharks that are the problem.Surfers and swimmers only use 500 metres from the shore and the sharks can have the rest of the ocean to feast on.

  5. Economic loss to beach-side businesses is another real-world factor that many brave ‘Ecos’ fail to fully appreciate.
    Scenario – If you had a sudden loss of customers/income, wouldn’t this sway your thinking just a tiny bit over mitigating more shark attacks ?
    [Oh, perhaps not – I forgot many of you are safely on C/L/K income from the taxpayer !]

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