Of the official count of 3944 creatures trapped, about 60 per cent were sharks and less than 4 per cent were considered ”target” species (or those particularly harmful to humans).
The haul – as recorded in the Department of Primary Industries’ Report into the NSW Shark Meshing (Bather Protection) Program – included a total of 2521 sharks.
Among them were 15 grey nurses, a harmless species considered critically endangered.
Also on the list were stingrays (1269), dolphins (52), turtles (47), whales (six), seals (four), a penguin and a dugong.
Humane Society International’s director Michael Kennedy said the public would be shocked to know how many animals were killed in the nets, which are strung off parts of popular beaches up and down the East Coast.
”We know from our own research and from the government’s research that these nets do kill a large amount of threatened marine animals,” Mr Kennedy said. ”It is very hard to justify their continued use.”
The Humane Society is calling on the NSW government to invest in alternative protection measures, such as radio signals, sonar technology and electric nets.
”The government needs to be brave enough to use these new devices rather than kill the animals,” Mr Kennedy said.
Surf Life Saving NSW also advocated further research into shark net alternatives.
”The risk of shark attacks is extremely low and anecdotally we are aware it does have environmental impacts,” spokeswoman Donna Wishart said. ”The shark nets don’t actually fence off the beaches…”
The government said netting contractors were expected to check the nets every 72 hours, weather permitting. A former NSW shark net contractor, who asked not to be named, said it would be possible to check the nets daily if the government paid more.
‘The nets are claimed to be effective but are they really? Is the by kill of dolphins, harmless sharks, fish, dolphins and whales a fair price to pay?
Queenscliff Surf Club coach Damien Daley said the consensus among surf lifesavers was that the nets were environmentally damaging. ”When I dive, 50 per cent of the animals caught in the nets are not sharks. ” … You are more likely to be killed by a strike of lightning than a shark.”
Reviews are carried out by state government departments on the effectiveness of the shark netting program but when you consider that many of the researchers owe their living to the continuation of shark netting, the results cannot be considered independent and totally objective.
Oceans’ Harmony’s first project is a complete scientific, economic and sociological independent review of the shark netting on the East Coast to present the facts to the authorities and the Australian public. This will be partnered with interested universities and research institutes to ensure objectivity and lack of bias.