17 January 2017
The NSW Shark Meshing program is a marine animal culling program and should be phased out according to NSW Greens Marine and Fisheries spokesperson, Justin Field.
The call comes after the NSW Government released the Shark Meshing (Bather Protection) Program 2015-16 Annual Performance Report showing dramatic increases in animals caught and killed in the mesh nets.
Shark mesh nets at 51 beaches between Wollongong and Newcastle caught 748 marine animals and killed 364 of them in the 2015/2016 year. There was a dramatic four-fold increase in the number of animals caught and 300% increase in marine animals found dead in the nets.
Four shark 'interactions' were reported within the Shark Meshing Program area, including one at a beach where the net was in place.
Justin Field said: "Laid out nose to tail the marine animals killed by this program including dolphins, rays, turtles and non-threatening shark would stretch half the length of Bondi Beach.
“People would be shocked to know that some of the dolphins they have enjoyed watching playing in the waves have ended up dead in NSW shark nets.
"It's time we phased out this culling program and replaced it with non-lethal solutions.
"The shark mesh net program provides questionable protection to NSW swimmers and divers but costs a fortune in terms of destruction to our wildlife and dollars spent.
"The majority of animals caught in the shark nets in NSW were harmless sharks, dolphins and turtles that pose no risk to swimmers and divers.
"After a Christmas where we've seen a spike in drownings along the coast, what we should be investing in is more lifesavers and more resources for emergency responders, not spending millions on a discredited shark meshing program.
The 2015/2016 shark-meshing program tripped trigger points for the number of Common Dolphins and Hawksbill Turtles killed by the nets which will force a review of the program.
Mr. Field said: "At the same time the Government was planning to roll out new shark mesh nets on the North Coast where dolphins and turtle are prevalent, they were sitting on data that showed the existing nets with dolphin deterrent devices weren't working effectively.
"There are non-lethal alternatives to shark mesh nets including community observer programs, better resources for lifeguards, smart drum lines and personal deterrent devices.
"We should be phasing out these destructive nets and modernising swimmer protection at NSW beaches.
The Greens non-lethal approach to shark management is here.
NOTE: The 2015/16 shark meshing period was from 1 September 2015 to 30 April 2016. Figures for this period have been unavailable publicly until now.