The Committee has called out the NSW Government because its shark net program is failing to reduce the risk to humans from shark bites and minimise the impact on threatened species.
The NSW Government runs a shark meshing (bather protection) program (shark net program). This involves installing shark nets at 51 beaches between Newcastle and Wollongong from September – April every year. The nets have been removed between May – August since 1983 so that migrating whales can pass.
The decision not to permanently remove shark nets as part of the broader shark management program is contentious and continues to be called out as outdated by scientists, NSW coastal councils and community groups.
The main objections are that:
- shark nets are ineffective at reducing shark interactions,
- shark nets catch 80 – 90% of non-target species like dolphins, turtles and rays, and
- NSW is already using alternative modern technologies that better protect ocean users while minimising harm to marine life.
Since 2000, 85% of reported shark interactions in the Sydney metro region occurred at beaches with shark nets. 1
The latest report comes from the NSW Threatened Species Scientific Committee, which plays a role in reviewing the shark net program annual report.
The Committee is ‘extremely concerned’ that the current shark net program is not meeting the objectives under the Joint Management Agreement between the relevant departments.
Those objectives are to reduce the risk of a shark bite occurring at beaches with shark nets and ensure the shark net program does not jeopardise the survival or conservation status of threatened species. 2
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‘The consistent annual record of non-target species being caught in nets is of significant concern to the NSW TSSC. This year there were over 300 non target animals caught, and only 51 target animals (six times as many non-target animals as target animals)… A large non-target catch has continued for many years with little effective actions to reduce the quantities.’ NSW Threatened Species Scientific Committee
The Committee called out that there is strong scientific evidence to support the use of modern technologies to meet these objectives in lieu of shark nets – many of which are already being used in NSW. The Committee also noted that there are deficiencies in the data collected and analysed from the current shark net program.
‘We note current literature and advice that suggests that the use of a range of technologies and the cessation of shark nets are likely to achieve a better result for the objectives of the JMA (Joint Management Agreement).’ NSW Threatened Species Scientific Committee
The Committee’s voice is added to a chorus of NSW local councils, NSW coastal residents, surfers and environmentalists asking the NSW Government to back existing modern technologies in lieu of outdated shark nets.
We hope that the NSW Government can take the sensible step of making its waters shark net free in 2023.
- Cardno (18 January 2022), NSW Shark Management Strategy and Shark Program Review, https://www.sharksmart.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/1398267/Cardno-Report.PDF.
- NSW Threatened Species Scientific Committee (29 September 2022), Response to the Shark Meshing (Bather Protection) Program 2021/2022 Annual Performance Report, pg 2 https://www.sharksmart.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/1433469/9caae8f8c5bb0187413ec01b54fc9c09c8822ddb.pdf.