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Byron Shire
July 20, 2024

Proposed shark nets unsafe for marine life and humans say animal conservationists

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Devil Rays caught in NSW shark net. Photo Sea Shepherd Australia

Animal conservationist groups are appalled at a decision by the NSW government to reinstate shark nets in coastal waters starting in spring.

The Hon. Emma Hurst MLC, Animal Justice Party, said that the announcement today that the Minns Labor government will be putting shark nets back in the water on September 1, has proven them to be nothing more than a limp handshake. ‘Since their win in March, they have failed to take any meaningful action to protect animals and the environment.

‘Premier Chris Minns and Agriculture Minister Tara Moriarty know full well that shark nets create a false sense of security. Research from the University of Wollongong showed that nets are ineffective at protecting beachgoers whilst indiscriminately killing countless marine animals. 

Dead dolphin caught in shark net at Bronte Beach. Photo Mother Ocean Freediving.

Ignoring science

‘Labor are ignoring science in fear of making an actual government decision.’

Ms Hurst said the decision to put shark nets back in the water is cowardly. ‘It fails to consider science, and it fails to listen to the community. 

‘I have heard from councils who say that they are ready to move away from shark nets – they just need the government and the DPI to assist with the implementation of alternatives that actually work to deter sharks. Where there is a will there is a way. Clearly, with the Labor government, there is no will,’ she said.

Sea Shepherd

Marine conservationist organisation Sea Shepherd says it’s open season on turtles and dolphins if shark nets return, against scientific advice and the will of councils.

Sea Shepherd’s Threatened Species Campaigner Lauren Sandeman said the two scientific committees that oversee the use of shark nets in NSW have called for these destructive and ineffective nets to be replaced with the technology currently available in NSW.

‘The majority of councils with these nets have just finished consultations, calling for this same decision. If the Minns government is ignoring these calls, it is an unbelievable act of ignorance and political cowardice’, said Sandman.

Action for Dolphins’ COO Emilia Michael said we need to be clear about the nets. ‘The Minns government is already using effective, scientifically-supported shark management measures that protect people while minimising harm to marine animals. We are currently relying exclusively on these measures as shark nets are out of the water for four months each year to help protect beloved migrating whales.’

A myriad of modern shark mitigation alternatives

A Blacktip shark caught in a NSW shark net. Photo Sea Shepherd Australia

Highlighting the myriad of modern shark mitigation alternatives currently deployed in NSW, Ms Michael said to improve ocean safety, it is time for the Minns government to rely on the modern shark mitigation technologies already being used widely. ‘’There is drone surveillance, beach patrol and shark listening stations – remove ineffective shark nets for good.’

Sea Shepherd Australia and Action for Dolphins has published an easy to read report called NSW – Effective Shark Management for Your Community.

The marine conservation groups have summarised how each shark management measure works in light of scientific research, and whether they are effective. Importantly, the report proposes a tailored pathway to modernise shark management in each coastal council.

Ms Michael said that 89 per cent of marine animals caught in NSW’s shark nets last season were non-target species such as dolphins, turtles, rays and other sharks. ‘100 per cent of all dolphins which were caught struggled and drowned while waiting for a contractor to free them from the nets.’

No target species caught

Lauren Sandeman said that not a single target shark was caught in shark nets across all of Sydney last year – the one thing these nets are intended to do. ‘Not only does this program have no evidence justifying its continuation, its only purpose is to kill and it’s killing our most vulnerable marine life.’

Sea Shepherd Australia and Action for Dolphins are calling on the Minns government to permanently remove ineffective shark nets this season and continue enhancing the deployment of scientifically-supported shark management measures in NSW.

Emma Hurst said the failure of the Labor government to move from ineffective shark nets towards effective alternatives will leave beachgoers at risk this season. ‘The Labor government needs to grow a backbone and do the work required to protect beachgoers and threatened marine animals.’

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  1. Minns, the sea creature killer.
    The killer curtains have been shown to be next to useless. Sharks can swim over, under and around any nets.
    Australian Geographic published a piece –
    ‘ Shark nets: Protecting us or just harming sharks?’
    Dr Blake Chapman
    Dr Blake Chapman is Australian Geographic’s shark Editor-at-large.
    By Blake Chapman • June 26, 2019

    You can dial it up for a read.
    The important takeout –
    “The main evidence that suggests that shark nets are not effective in preventing bites on humans is that around 40 per cent of sharks are caught on ‘wrong side’, or beach side of nets.
    This says that sharks do come in close to the shore at these popular swimming locations, but then leave – only to get caught on their way back out to sea.
    The other piece of information against the effectiveness of nets is that some of our most (potentially) dangerous species of sharks are highly migratory.
    They don’t tend to stick around in a place for very long, suggesting that localised culls would not afford much protection to swimmers.”

    So board riders and and ocean swimmers, swimming with sharks and being left alone by the sharks.

    The killer curtains are a stupid idea, Ban Nets.

    • As an addon.
      Last night (22/8/23 ) ABC show, The Drum, had this very topic of shark nets as a topic of discussion.
      Christopher Pepin-Neff, Senior Lecturer at Sydney University, appeared and told it how it is.

      If anyone is further interested get yourself onto ABC Iview and dial up last night’s The Drum – the shark net topic starts at around the 23 minute mark.

      N O Nets!!!!

  2. Australia is the leading country in the world for bomb dropping drone production. We also have the best drone racing pilots. Seems like a solution for youth unemployment. Why settle for passive defences.

  3. The most telling statistic in the conversation about the efficacy of shark nets, is that 40% of all shark species caught in the nets are caught on the beach side of the nets, returning from inshore towards open ocean.
    Time to modernise our management.


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