Annual data just released on the deaths of iconic marine life in New South Wales reveals shark nets as the cause of many species becoming entangled including dolphins and turtles. The data is from two leading marine conservation groups, Humane Society International (HSI) and the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS). A total of 480 animals were caught in 51 shark nets in the past year (September to April), of which a shocking 284 sharks, dolphins, turtles, and rays were killed in the nets, according to data published on July 31st by the Department of Primary Industries.
HSI/Australia and AMCS are calling for the Berejiklian Government to end the NSW Shark Meshing Program, particularly as shark nets don’t reduce the risk of unprovoked shark interactions. Many threatened and protected species were caught in the nets, including: 7 dolphins, 10 turtles, and 31 critically endangered grey nurse sharks.
“NSW DPI has made great progress in developing a suite of effective tools to manage the inherently low risk of shark bites, including drone surveillance, personal shark deterrents, and education—all of which are much more effective at protecting ocean users than nets,” said Lawrence Chlebeck, Marine Campaigner with HSI/Australia in an email sent to WAN. “This includes the recent commitment to expand drone surveillance across additional NSW beaches. All of this is building to an end to shark nets, and this new wildlife death tally should surely be the last straw for the NSW Government.”
“Shark nets are a relic of the past having been introduced in the 1930s when little was known about shark behaviour and their importance in the ecosystem. The truth is that shark nets don’t make swimmers safer and they take a terrible toll on marine life—costing the lives of turtles, dolphins, sharks, and rays. It is high time the NSW Government consigns shark nets to the history books where they belong,” continued Chlebeck.
“The only guarantee we have from these nets, are the drownings of iconic wildlife like dolphins and turtles. For over 80 years in NSW, tens of thousands of animals have drowned at netted beaches,” said Dr. Leonardo Guida, shark scientist at the AMCS. “Shark nets were removed along the North Coast of NSW because the local communities opposed the unacceptable wildlife death toll. Newcastle, Sydney, and Wollongong need to do the same. We ask the NSW Government to continue their progress and bring an end to the nets. This must be the last meshing season.”
The NSW Shark meshing program runs annually from September 1st to April 30 from Newcastle to Wollongong. Of the 395 animals reported caught in the nets during the 2018-2019 period, 372 were non-target species and 179 were either threatened or protected under NSW or Federal law, or listed on international threatened species lists.
Even those animals released alive are not guaranteed survival as the stress and injury of entanglement can cause death soon after.
Originally meant as a means to “fish-down” shark populations, the nets are culling devices. Contrary to popular belief, reducing shark populations does not reduce the already small risk of shark bites, as recently confirmed in HSI vs GBRMPA and QDAF at the Queensland Administrative Appeals Tribunal. In its decision, the Tribunal stated “the lethal component of the Shark Control Program does not reduce the risk of unprovoked shark interactions. The scientific evidence before us is overwhelming in this regard.”