Shark nets stay afloat as premier says tech lacks bite

Shark nets are likely to remain at Sydney beaches this summer despite opposition from councils and conservation groups as NSW weighs up alternatives to keep swimmers safe.

Consultation between the state government and coastal councils has been under way, with many local governments calling for the nets to be permanently replaced with proven non-lethal shark management alternatives.

These include drones and alert systems already used at multiple beaches.

Premier Chris Minns said a final decision had not been reached about the nets, but he was not confident emerging shark protection technology was a good enough replacement.

“It’s a good ambition to remove shark nets in Sydney, but we’ve got a ways to go when it comes to that shark detection technology,” he said on Monday.

“I don’t think that work will be done in enough time this summer, particularly when you consider the nets need to be rolled out in September.”

Nets deployed at NSW beaches to protect swimmers each summer rarely catch dangerous sharks but are killing an alarming number of threatened marine species.

Government data released earlier this month showed just how ineffective the shark nets were at catching the target species deemed a threat to people.

Only 24 of the 228 animals caught in the 2022/23 netting season were targeted white and tiger sharks.

Environmental groups are concerned about the impact nets have on marine wildlife.

Greens MP Cate Faehrmann said the change in state government had given people hope leaders would listen to advice to remove inhumane and ineffective shark nets.

“We know shark nets don’t provide any meaningful protection against attacks, yet for eight months each year our beaches become death traps for sharks and countless other marine animals including threatened species like turtles,” she said.

“It’s time we left shark nets in the past where they belong.”

Humane Society International Australia marine biologist Lawrence Chlebeck said 90 per cent of animals caught in the nets were not sharks.

“Returning shark nets makes no sense … in fact, a shark net is about as effective for shark safety as a volleyball net on the sand,” he said.

“Modern and very effective solutions, such as drones and alert systems, are successfully installed at the beaches, so it makes no sense to continue with 100-year old technology for which there is no scientific support.”

Mr Minns acknowledged shark nets had a negative impact on other sea creatures, but said Sydneysiders should expect them to remain for the time being.

“I don’t think anyone’s seriously suggesting we don’t replace (the nets) with emerging technology, particularly as that gets better and better when it comes to shark detection,” he said.

Shark nets are deployed every year on September 1 and stay in the water until the end of April.


Maeve Bannister
(Australian Associated Press)


Like This