There’s been a step toward implementing a major change at several beaches after a series of disturbing images exposed a major issue. WARNING: Graphic
Councillors are calling for shark nets to be banished from a series of popular beaches after shocking images emerged of dead or injured marine life.
Northern Beaches Council has voted to pass a motion urging the state government to abolish the nets at its local beaches.
They are instead demanding a shift toward animal-friendly technologies such as drones and shark listening stations.
This motion comes after new data released by the Animal Justice Party revealed 290 animals had died in Northern Beaches shark nets over the past nine years, including 18 whales and dolphins, 21 turtles, and 224 threatened or protected species.
Acting Major Candy Bingham said council considered the need to maintain or improve swimmer safety while preserving marine species.
“The effectiveness of shark nets has been questioned by many, yet their impact on other marine species is devastating,” she said in a statement.
“The research conducted by DPI Fisheries found that 90 per cent of marine species caught in nets were non-target species and that sharks can in fact swim over, under and around the nets anyhow.”
She said evidence suggested there were more effective ways to mitigate shark risk.
Disturbing images from the Human Society International (Australia) revealed the true extent of the damage shark nets are having on marine life.
According to the HSI more than 19,000 animals have died in shark nets since their inception 80 years ago.
Almost 2400 became trapped in the last four years but only 171 of those were actually sharks intended to be caught.
Of the animals caught, 1320 died, data from the state government reveals.
But that could change.
The Northern Beaches Council joins several other councils such as Wollongong, Waverley and Randwick which are campaigning to ban shark nettings.
HSI marine biologist Lawrence Chlebeck said shark nets provided a “false sense of security” with 40 per cent of sharks caught on the beach side of the nets.
“What a lot of people might not realise is that the nets are not complete barriers, they are only about 150m long and 6m high and sharks swim over and around them,” he said.
“The technology is nearly 100 years old.”
There are 51 shark nets between Newcastle and Wollongong which Mr Chlebeck argues have hardly been upgraded despite technological advancements.
He then highlighted the devastating impact on marine life.
Since 2012 the state’s shark meshing program has captured almost 3000 marine animals including dolphins, whales and turtles, killing 1600 of them (56 per cent).
“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. Why persist using 80-year-old methods?,” shark scientist with the Australian Marine Conservation Society, Leonardo Guida, asked.
“Modern solutions are going to be more effective because they work in conjunction with what we know about sharks. Shark nets are nowhere near as refined.”
The Department of Primary Industry (Fisheries) is in charge of the state’s shark netting program. Nets are established in September and removed at the end of April.
There are 51 beaches between Newcastle and Wollongong currently protected by shark nets as part of the state government’s Bather Protection Program.
Since the introduction of the shark meshing program in 1937, there has only been one fatality at meshed beaches.
“There are currently no plans to permanently remove shark nets from beaches that are being protected as part of the NSW Government’s Bather Protection program,” a spokesperson for DPI said.
“(DPI) is conducting a survey encouraging all coastal councils to have their say on shark mitigation measures in NSW such as drones, smart drumlines, listening stations and nets.
“This follows a series of information sessions run by DPI for local councils and surf lifesaving organisations about the outcomes of the NSW Shark Management Strategy.
“A key finding of the 2015 Shark Management Strategy was that people are safest when there is a combination of technologies and deterrents in place – including nets where appropriate.”