What are shark nets and lethal drumlines?

Shark nets and are not barriers to the open sea. These devices, installed at beaches spanning hundreds of metres, are essentially flapping pieces of fishing gear. They are installed at beaches in New South Wales and Queensland. In both states, nets are set ~500m from shore, and they do not prevent sharks from swimming over, under or around them.

In New South Wales, shark nets only reach halfway to the ocean surface and stretch merely 150m in length. They are installed at 51 beaches between Newcastle and Wollongong from September – April every year [1]. In New South Wales, the program targets 3 species of sharks. If these sharks are found alive, they are tagged and released.

An informational graphic illustrating that New South Wales (NSW) shark nets are not full barriers. It shows a side view of the ocean with a shark net suspended in the water, marked as 150 meters long and not to scale, with floats on the surface and weights at the bottom. The net extends 6 meters deep but is shorter than the width of the beach, allowing marine life like sharks and turtles to swim around it, indicating the net's inefficiency as a barrier.

Source: Sea Shepherd Australia


In Queensland, the nets are between 124 – 186m in length. They are dropped 6 metres deep into the water and anchored to the sea floor. These nets remain in the water all year long at 86 beaches in Queensland, excluding the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park [2].

An infographic titled 'QUEENSLAND SHARK NETS' depicting a cross-section view of the ocean with a shark net system. The net is shown with buoys on the surface and anchors at the seabed, extending approximately 6 meters in depth. There are acoustic pingers marked for dolphins and whales along the net to deter them. The diagram illustrates an open gap between the net and seafloor, highlighting that sharks can pass through, with a note stating shark nets can range from 124-186m in length and are used at beaches that are tens of kilometres in length. The bottom of the image notes that it is not to scale and includes the Sea Shepherd logo.

Source: Sea Shepherd Australia

Queensland also deploys lethal drumlines. These are baited fishing-hooks that are designed to hook and kill animals.

The image is an educational depiction answering 'WHAT ARE DRUMLINES?' against a clear blue ocean background. It features a side view of a drumline set-up, which includes a buoy on the surface connected by a chain to an anchor on the seabed. Along the chain, there is a baited hook with a shark approaching it. Additional floats are visible on the surface near the buoy. The image indicates that the drumline is not to scale.

Credit: Sea Shepherd Australia

Queensland’s program targets 7 species of sharks. Sadly, if any of these sharks are caught on a shark net or drumline outside of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and they haven’t drowned before a contractor arrives, they are then killed. This is known as an active culling program, which scientists have shown don’t work to reduce shark bites.

Scientists are clear: shark nets don't reduce shark bites

Associate Professor Laurenson’s research explains why shark nets are ineffective. As summarised by Deakin University, “after analysing 60 years of Australian data, Associate Professor Laurenson found that shark mitigation activities, such as shark nets and drum lines, have no statistical impact on the number of shark attacks. In fact, they may actually have a contra effect, making us “feel” safer and behave with less caution than we should – as well as unnecessarily killing sharks and other marine life.” [3]

The image captures the dynamic beauty of a curling ocean wave in the moment before it breaks, with sunlight filtering through the translucent blue-green water, creating a brilliant aquatic arc against a bright sky. The golden sunlight is reflecting off the ocean surface, and the shore is visible in the distance, invoking the serene yet powerful nature of the sea

Source: Epic Stock Media

Why don’t shark nets reduce shark bite risks?

Shark nets are simply small nets in a large ocean that don’t prevent a shark from swimming close to shore. Furthermore, sharks are migratory species, and they travel many kilometres each day.

Relying on a shark net to mitigate a shark bite is as effective as placing a tissue on your head and hoping it will protect you in a hailstorm.

Dr McPhee, a leading researcher, gave evidence in a critical Tribunal case. He said it was “highly plausible” that if lethal technologies like shark nets are removed tomorrow, we would see no discernible change in unprovoked shark bites, including fatalities. [4]

Furthermore, a recent report showed that there were more shark interactions at beaches with shark nets in Sydney’s metro region. [5]

A pie chart illustrating 'Shark Interactions in Sydney's Metro Region Since 2000'. It shows a large majority, 85%, of shark incidents occurred outside of beach nets, represented by a vast yellow section. A smaller white slice, 15%, indicates incidents within beach nets. The chart is a visual representation to convey the distribution of shark interactions in relation to beach net locations

The NSW Threatened Species Scientific Committee said expanding modern measures would better reduce the risk of a shark bite occurring and ensure the shark management program does not jeopardise the survival or conservation status of threatened species.[6]

Marine animals silently suffer in shark nets

When marine life are caught in shark nets, many cannot escape. They often drown in their own home after spending hours exhausting themselves trying to break free.

A disturbing image of a dolphin entangled in a shark net in New South Wales. The dolphin is caught in the netting, with parts of its body and fin visibly restricted by the entanglement. The water around is clear, and the surface above is slightly rippled, highlighting the tragic situation just below.
Source Mother Ocean Freediving


of the dolphins that were caught in New South Wales shark nets last season drowned and died before they could be released.

A close-up underwater image showing two rays ensnared in a shark net. The image captures the rays' struggle against the entanglement in the clear blue ocean water, emphasizing the negative impact of shark nets to marine life like rays
Source Sea Shepherd Australia


of marine life caught by shark nets between September 2012 – April 2023 were not the target of NSW’s shark net program – including dolphins, turtles and rays.

A majestic bull shark glides gracefully through the clear, shallow waters over a sandy sea floor, patterned with ripples of sunlight. The shark is captured in profile, displaying its streamlined body, characteristic dorsal fin, and the subtle stripes from which its name derives. The water is a serene blue, and the scene is lit by a soft, dappled light, emphasizing the shark's natural habitat.
Source Gerald Schombs Unsplash


bull, tiger and white sharks (the target sharks in New South Wales), were caught by shark nets in the Sydney region last season. Instead, in Sydney alone, these indiscriminate nets caught 42 non-target animals. 

An underwater image showing a side view of a tiger shark swimming against the backdrop of a rocky sea bed. The shark is highlighted by the deep blue hues of the ocean, with its distinctive vertical stripes and sleek body shape visible. The image captures the essence of the shark in its natural, deep-sea environment
Source Jeremy Lanfranchi https://jeremylanfranchi.com


of the target sharks caught on a shark net or a lethal drumline in Queensland (outside of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park) are killed – regardless of whether they present any risk to humans.

It's time to rely on scientifically backed technology

Both New South Wales and Queensland Governments have invested in modern scientifically supported shark management measures. These measures keep people safe and don’t harm marine life. It’s time to rely on these measures and remove outdated shark nets. 

In partnership with Sea Shepherd Australia, we are advocating to remove shark nets for good and rely on effective, scientifically supported shark mitigation technologies. 

Learn more about what an effective shark management program looks like


Source Josh Sorenson Unsplash

What does an effective shark management program look like?

An effective shark management program includes a combination of each of the following measures.

An infographic showing a circular diagram of shark management strategies. The diagram includes icons and labels for various measures: 'DRONE SURVEILLANCE' with a drone icon, 'PERSONAL DETERRENT DEVICES' with a lightning bolt symbol, 'SURF LIFESAVING PATROL' with a lifesaver icon, 'SHARK SMART EDUCATION (INCLUDING SHARKSMART APP)' with a smartphone icon, 'SHARK TAGGING & TRACKING' with a shark fin and location pin icon, and 'SHARK LISTENING STATIONS' with a buoy icon. At the center, 'INDIVIDUAL RISK MANAGEMENT' is noted, signifying the core of these interconnected strategies.

A simple, stylised icon of a drone viewed from the front on a white background. The drone has two arms with propellers on each end, a central body with what appears to be a camera or sensor at the front, and landing gear at the bottom. The icon is outlined in a light turquoise colour, suggesting a clean and modern design.

Drone surveillance and surf life saving patrol

Drones are aerial vehicles that are fitted with camera surveillance to monitor stretches of coastline. They are manned by Surf Life Saving patrollers. They are used to spot sharks in the water from the air and to determine whether beaches need to be evacuated based on the level of risk present. Drones have proven to be an extremely effective tool in the detection of large sharks and other marine risks close to local beaches.[7]

A stylised graphic showing a sequence of shark tracking. It includes an icon of a buoy floating on water, a series of three location pins connected by lines indicating a path, and an illustration of a shark at the end of the path. Arrows between the elements suggest the movement from the buoy to the shark's current location. The graphic is in a light turquoise colour on a white background, conveying the process of monitoring shark movements

Shark listening stations coupled with shark tagging and tracking

Shark listening stations are receivers deployed from the coastline that record and send out an alert in real-time when a tagged shark swims within 500m of the device. Shark listening stations work in partnership with an effective tagging program. Shark listening stations are effective as they enable people to reduce the chance of encountering a shark up close and enable beach authorities to make better informed decisions about when to close a beach because a large shark is present.

A stylised icon depicting a person reviewing a checklist. The icon features a human figure leaning over a list with three check marks, suggesting the act of checking off items. The figure and checklist are outlined in a light turquoise colour against a white background, conveying a theme of organisation and task completion

Shark smart education and risk management

Experts agree, community education is the best way to reduce the risk of shark bites. The state departments run shark education at beaches, schools, and community events. Education is also available in New South Wales with the SharkSmart app. People can get real-time shark alerts and beach safety info tailored to their preferences – time, region, type, or beach. Shark smart education is also one of the most favoured methods of shark management in New South Whales.

A light turquoise shield icon with a white outline featuring a bold lightning bolt symbol in the center. The icon represents protection or defense, possibly indicating a safety feature or a personal deterrent device, set against a white background.

Personal deterrent devices

Personal deterrent devices are used by individuals to reduce the chance of a shark bite occurring. There is an emerging market for such devices. However not every device is to the same standard and the market is not regulated, so only independently-tested and verified devices should be considered.

The Western Australian Government offers a rebate scheme for devices which meet a scientific threshold of their effectiveness. Currently, only devices from two brands meet this criteria: Ocean Guardian and Rpela.

You are more likely to be killed by a farm animal than a shark

The National Coronial Information System reported that across Australia, horses and cows killed more people than sharks did between 2001 - 2017.

A simple line drawing of a horse on a black background. The horse is depicted in profile with its mane and tail detailed, standing calmly. The image is outlined in a dark blue colour, giving it a stark, minimalist appearance. The words 172 deaths appear
A line drawing of a cow in profile, outlined in dark blue against a black background. Below the cow, the text '82 deaths' is written, suggesting a statistical reference to the number of cow fatalities
A dark blue outline of a shark with a line through it, indicating prohibition or a negative outcome, against a black background. Beneath the image, the text '27 deaths' is clearly written, suggesting the number of shark fatalities associated with the context of the image.