A unanimous resolution passed today by Local Government NSW has requested that the NSW Government phases out the use of shark nets. The historic motion also asks that the shark nets are replaced with a combination of alternatives that protect swimmers more effectively and do not harm marine wildlife.
Local Government NSW represents a number of member councils across the state, including all eight councils that currently have shark nets installed on their beaches. There are currently 51 shark nets in NSW’s Shark Meshing Program, spanning from Newcastle to Wollongong.
The NSW Shark Meshing Program has hardly been updated during its 85 years of operation despite the NSW Government making significant technological and scientific advancements to better manage the risk of shark incidents. Conservation groups, Humane Society International Australia (HSI) and the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS), say it is high time the Shark Meshing Program in NSW was ended to make way for newer technologies that both improve swimmer safety and significantly reduce environmental impacts.
Last year’s Shark Meshing Program 2020/21 Annual Performance Report showed that of 375 animals caught in NSW’s shark nets, only 10% (40) were actually the target species of shark. Of the 375 marine animals caught in the nets, 62% (231) were killed. Shockingly, over half the animals caught during 2020-2021 were threatened or protected species, and 80% (161) of these animals were killed.
Non-lethal solutions including drone surveillance, SMART drumlines, personal shark deterrents, and accessible education programs, are not only more technologically advanced but are also designed with nearly a century of advancements in understanding shark behaviour in mind. Many of these alternatives have been successfully trialed and implemented by NSW DPI already.
Lawrence Chlebeck, marine biologist for HSI, said, “It is fantastic to see these NSW councils band together to ask the NSW Government for an end to shark nets. We are hopeful that now with the support of all eight councils that have nets in their ocean beaches, and that of Local Government NSW behind them, NSW DPI will design a modern bather protection program and consign these outdated nets to history.”
Dr Leonardo Guida, shark scientist with AMCS, said, “I commend these NSW communities on their collective leadership – it’s clear they’re well-informed of the science and familiar with non-lethal solutions to shark nets that improve bather safety and at no cost to our iconic marine life.”