Calls grow for the removal of shark nets

Dolphins often fall victim to shark nets

Central Coast Council has joined other councils in the state in expressing its lack of support of shark nets and urging the State Government to look at alternatives.

The news comes as calls for the removal of shark nets at Central Coast beaches are ramping up following concerns the nets provide a false sense of security and are a danger to other sea creatures.

Since the launch of its trial on September 1, 2009, the NSW Department of Primary Industries has been recording the findings of its shark nets program.

According to the Department’s data, 217 sharks died on the Southern end of the Coast between 2009 and April 2019 as a result of the nets.

A media release from the Humane Society International Australia (HSI) claims nearly 400 non-target animals have also been killed on Central Coast beaches since 2012 as a direct result of the 11 shark nets currently in use.

Of these, 330 were threatened or protected species, such as dolphins, turtles and rays.

The HSI also says that 40 per cent of sharks have been caught on the beach side of the nets, essentially referring to its lack of effectiveness.

Nets are in place at Terrigal, North Avoca, Avoca, Copacabana, Umina, Killare and MacMasters beach as well as at some northern beaches.

Lawrence Chlebeck, a Marine Biologist for HIS, said the shark nets provide nothing but a “false sense of security” for swimmers.

“What a lot of people might not realise is that the nets are not complete barriers, they are only about 150 meters long and six meters high and sharks swim over and around them,” Chlebeck said.

“The technology is nearly 100-years-old, we would never accept safety technology that old in any other facet of our lives, why should ocean safety be any different?

“It is in everyone’s best interest that the current Shark Meshing Program is done away with.

“[We are] pleased to see that attitude being reflected at the local council level.”

Shark scientist, Dr Leonardo Guida, agrees.

The Australian Marine Conservation Society scientist said he would like to see a transition to more modern solutions.

“We’ve got modern solutions to beach safety like drones that don’t drown our iconic wildlife, can spot sharks in advance, and have a big added bonus of spotting people at risk of drowning – the biggest danger at our beaches,” Guida said.

In the Department of Primary Industries own infographic, there seems to be a public support for getting rid of shark nets.

The Department acknowledges public concerns that it is “commonly viewed as old and outdated technology” which is the “least liked shark mitigation method due to socially unacceptable levels of bycatch/mortality”.

The Department also recognises the community would prefer non-lethal shark mitigation approaches that minimise harm to sharks and other species, but that some people report feeling safer in the water with the nets deployed.

Central Coast Council has joined Northern Beaches, Newcastle, Wollongong, Randwick and Waverley councils in calling for a removal of the nets.

Maisy Rae and Terry Collins