August 27 - September 2, 2023: Issue 596


NSW Government States It Will Continue With Shark Mesh Program

The NSW Government has announced it will continue the Shark Management Program in its current form for the upcoming summer swimming season.

'The Shark Management Program is an effective mitigation program, with a mix of traditional and modern technologies along the NSW coastline.' the Government said in a statement

'Last year was the first summer where SMART drumlines, drones and tagged shark listening stations were deployed at beaches which also have shark nets.'

Continuing the full suite of measures for the 2023-24 season will help us gather further data to make better informed decisions about possible changes for the following (2024-25) season.'

''The shark meshing program is actively managed to minimise the impact on marine animals while protecting swimmers at some of NSW’s most popular beaches.'' the Government states
''The safety of beachgoers is the Government’s number one priority.''

The NSW Shark Management Program includes:
  • Nets at 51 beaches across 8 LGAs between Newcastle and Wollongong from 1 September to 30 April each year
  • 305 SMART drumlines across the 19 LGAs, including 138 in LGAs with nets
  • 37 tagged shark listening stations, including 13 in LGAs with nets
  • Surveillance drone patrols at the current 50 beaches across 25 LGAs, including 15 in LGAs with nets
For more information on the NSW Government’s Shark Management Program, visit Sharksmart.

Minister for Agriculture, Regional NSW and Western NSW Tara Moriarty said on Monday August 21:

“We will continue to work with Councils to assess options for different strategies in future, but for this summer we are sticking with the complement of nets, SMART drumlines, drones and listening stations.

"Nets are only set from September to April to avoid the majority of the whale migration season and are fitted with acoustic devices designed to deter marine mammals from interacting with them.

“The NSW Government will continue to listen to coastal councils and their communities to ensure that local preferences are balanced against effective, evidence-based shark mitigation for beachgoers.” the Minister for Agriculture stated.

However the Humane Society International (HSI) Australia and Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) have pointed out all eight NSW local councils with shark nets officially voiced their opposition to shark nets through council motions and submissions to the NSW Department of Primary Industries in 2021.

Additionally, over the most recent 2022-23 SMP the shark nets did not catch a single target shark between Palm Beach to Cronulla, just a migrating juvenile whale.

Compared to previous years reports the 2022/23 statistics show a significant drop in non-target species being caught in nets in this area - leading some to state that there is a decline in all marine species in our waters. Valerie Taylor, at a World Ocean Day celebration at Mona Vale surf club in June 2023 said that when she began diving in 1958, she would see enormous numbers of marine creatures in only 3 metres of water. These days you saw none, she said.

Similarly, those who have been fishing in our area for decades recall catching snapper that weighed upwards of 6 1/2 pounds during the 1950's and struggle to catch anything near that size today.

For 'Sydney North' the non-target species were; Australian Angel Shark (1), Bronze Whaler (1), Dusky Whaler (2), Smooth Hammerhead Shark (12), Greynurse Shark (1), Southern Eagle Ray (2), Australian Cownose Ray (2), Bottlenose Dolphin (1), Green Turtle (1), Loggerhead Turtle (1), Leatherback Turtle (1), Yellowfin Tune (1).

For 'Sydney Central' these were Smooth Hammerhead Shark (1), Greynurse Shark (1), Southern Eagle Ray (1), unidentified ray (1), Common Dolphin (2), Loggerhead Turtle (2).

Sydney North comprises the beaches from Palm Beach to Warriewood. Sydney Central runs from Narrabeen to Manly.

The previous 4 year of reports record:

  • 2018/19; 395 marine animals with 372 non-target animals - 238 of those 395 died before they could be released, 50 species caught in our area (Sydney North + Sydney Central) - 2 were target animals, 27 died
  • 2019/20; 480 marine animals with 50 target sharks and 430 non-target animals - 284 of that 480 died before they could be released,  63 species caught in our area - 4 were target animals, 41 died
  • 2020/21; 375 marine animals were caught with 40 target sharks and 335 non-target species - 231 died before they could be released, 76 species caught in our area - 6 were target species, 49 died
  • 2021/22; 376 animals caught with 51 target sharks and 325 non-target animals - 234 died, 54 species caught in our area - 5 were target animals, 35 died

A total of 173 marine animals have died in nets in this area in the last 5 shark mesh years.

The available reports from 2012-13 records 4927 died, 2013-14 report records 8435 died, 2014-15 report records 6430 died, 2015-16 report records 151 (lots of rays released - 748 interactions over the whole SMP areas), 43 died in local nets - including a Hawksbill turtle that drowned in the Bilgola net, and 364 overall perished, 2016/17 report records 7433 died.

This makes a total of 342 that died in shark nets during the past decade via these available reports. 

The reports are missing some data as that, for example, recorded in 2021/22 show nothing recorded for Sydney Central in the Detailed Catch Reports for – 16 March 2022 to 12 April 2022, and nothing recorded under Sydney North during 19 January 2022 to 15 February 2022 and 13 April 2022 to 30 April 2022. Those where there has not been anything caught are recorded as 'nil catch' against that section.

Similarly the the 2018/19 report records no Detailed Catch Report for Sydney Central during 24 November 2018 to 21 December 2018, and no data for Sydney North during 27 October 2018 to 23 November 2018.

A new report, 'Investigation into NSW Shark Meshing Program June 2023' by Envoy Foundation identified "extremely concerning discrepancies in data", including a photo of a bird found in shark nets in 2019 not included in data for the 2018/19 or 2019/20 catch data.

"There is an image of little penguin, also known as a fairy penguin — which are protected in NSW," Mr Borrell said.

"It's an image of a thing that was been pulled out of shark nets, but the animal does not appear in the data. How often does that happen?"

The Humane Society International (HSI) Australia and Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) have called on the NSW Government to announce an urgent retirement plan for the shark nets, after they confirmed all 51 wildlife death traps would be returning to Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong beaches on the 1st September. The decision is bitterly disappointing for conservationists who hoped the Minns Government would stop pretending the nets make a difference to public safety and take a different approach guided by science. 

SMART drumlines, drone surveillance and listening stations have been in place at NSW beaches for several years and are now at every beach with shark nets. The shark nets are redundant. Last summer, the shark nets did not catch a single target shark between Palm Beach to Cronulla, just a mounting toll of entangled and drowned protected and unintended species.  

''As well, by trapping wildlife right off metropolitan beaches, the shark nets could even be attracting sharks closer inshore. It makes no sense to continue with 100-year old technology for which there is no scientific support.'' HSI stated

''If the Government is insisting on rolling out the destructive nets this year, they must also roll out an education campaign to explain to the public that this will be the last shark netting season and that the removal of nets does not compromise beach safety. To be sincere about minimising the cost to wildlife, they must also commit to removing the nets the minute any endangered animals are harmed.''

In 2021, all eight NSW local councils with shark nets officially voiced their opposition to shark nets through council motions and submissions to the NSW Department of Primary Industries. 

Shadow environment minister Kellie Sloane is giving the Government support for a different approach to reduce reliance on nets. She told the ABC that “The government has a role to play in helping the community become more involved in this process though education and awareness, as well as localised trials of different mitigation approaches”.  

HSI Australia and AMCS have asked the Government to use the support from local councils and the shadow environment minister to lead the public on this issue and set up a clear retirement plan for the shark nets.

Lawrence Chlebeck, Marine Biologist and Campaigner at HSI Australia, said: “The government needs to dispel the myth that shark nets make swimmers safe. The shark nets are about as useful for public safety as the volleyball nets on the sand at Bondi.  

“Unlike shark nets at Harbour beaches which do form an enclosure, the shark nets at ocean beaches are tiny in comparison to the size of the beach. At only 100m in length at 6m high, sharks easily swim around, over and under the nets. 

“Year after year 90% of the animals caught in the nets are non-target species. In the last decade we’ve seen 3433 non-target animals killed in the nets. How can we continue to justify a program so reckless with our precious marine life for a false sense of security? It’s long past time for the nets to be retired. ” 

Dr Leonardo Guida, shark scientist at AMCS, said: “Nobody is to blame for a shark bite, but it is the responsibility of our elected NSW leaders to have evidence-based and effective means of safety in place – shark nets fail this test. Having a shark net in the water is like having a single strip of mesh no wider than your finger on a fly screen door and hoping to keep the flies out. NSW Government has and uses modern-day solutions that improve safety for humans and wildlife alike, the nets are utterly redundant.” 

Over the last decade, NSW shark nets have captured 3,433 unintended non-target animals. Many of these animals are threatened or protected species. Since 2013 the death of the following protected marine life due to NSW shark nets has been recorded:  
  • 59 Critically endangered grey nurse sharks  
  • 105 marine turtles  
  • 54 dolphins  
NSW’s Shark Meshing Program installs nets on beaches from Newcastle to Wollongong, every September until April. Every beach where a net is installed already has alternative shark safety measures in place such as SMART drumlines, alert systems and drone surveillance. 

''Modern, non-lethal mitigation measures such as drone surveillance, alert systems, personal shark deterrents, and Shark Smart behaviour are much more effective at keeping people safe without the cost to wildlife.  

Shark incidents are rare, and nets don’t stop them from happening. Thirty-six incidents have happened at netted beaches in NSW3.  It is the rapid medical attention provided by life savers and first responders who stop such incidents from being more serious, not the nets. '' states HSI

''Defenders of the nets like to say there has only been one fatality at a netted beach. To use this as a justification for nets is unscientific. There has also not been a fatality at hundreds of NSW beaches that have never had nets. ''

Underside of a loggerhead sea turtle as it swims overhead. Photo: Lance Miller


Council Calls For Removal Of Shark Nets On The Northern Beaches

Council is calling on the NSW government to remove shark nets on beaches in the Council area and replace them with a combination of modern and effective alternative shark mitigation strategies that maintain or improve swimmer safety and reduce unwanted by-catch of non-target species. 

Council made the call in response to Department of Primary Industries – Fisheries (DPI Fisheries) request for input from stakeholders on their preferred shark mitigation measures, following a five-year project considering the benefits and impacts of a range of mitigation measures.  

A number of residents addressed Council’s meeting last night in support of shark net removal, including surfing champion Layne Beachley. 

A/Mayor Candy Bingham said Council considered both the need to maintain or improve swimmer safety as well as the negative impacts on non-target marine species in reaching their decision.
“The effectiveness of shark nets has been questioned by many, yet their impact on other marine species is devastating,” Cr Bingham said. 

“We have an aquatic reserve in Manly where turtles and rays are regularly seen by snorkelers, and up and down the beaches dolphins surf the waves alongside local board riders. 

“The research conducted by DPI Fisheries found that 90% of marine species caught in nets were non-target species and that sharks can in fact swim over, under and around the nets anyhow. 

“If the evidence is that there are other just as, or more, effective ways to mitigate shark risk, such as drone and helicopter surveillance, listening stations and deterrent devices, then we owe it to those non-target species to remove the nets. 

‘We will be providing that feedback through this consultation process and look forward to the government implementing effective shark mitigation measures while protecting other important marine species.”

Green Turtle Eggs Found Here To Head North

January 10, 2020: From Northern Beaches Police Area Command Facebook page - Inbox and Environment News Issue 434

Pre-dawn this morning at North Steyne as a close to full moon was setting, a green turtle laboured its way up the sand. Just south of the surf club she dug a nest, laid her eggs, carefully covered them up and headed back to sea. The only sign she'd been there, two sets of tracks in the sand.

Tracks up the sand and back to sea

With virtually no chance of the baby turtles surviving this far south, crews from Taronga Zoo and National Parks came to the beach and carefully retrieved the eggs for relocation to a more suitable environment.

The exercise saw the two teams carefully dig until the nest was found, 37cm down. Each egg was removed, numbered and laid out in rows of ten. From there they were packed in coolers, complete with sand from the nest to be transported to a beach much further north. There, a hole of identical depth will be dug and each egg placed, one-by-one, in its new home. That way, any female turtles that hatch will return to lay their eggs closer to that beach rather than one of the busiest stretches of sand in Sydney.

The dig begins

Each egg carefully numbered 

Crews found 144 of the white, ping pong ball sized eggs, their shells still soft and leathery. They say incidents of turtles laying their eggs so far south are extremely rare. The eggs have been carefully placed in sand at an undisclosed location near Coffs Harbour, where they were more likely to hatch.

The eggs will be will be monitored by NSW TurtleWatch Citizen Science Nesting Program volunteers alongside local rangers to ensure predators don't take the eggs, and keep an eye out for signs that the turtles are hatching, which will happen in about two months time.

Shark Drumlines Going In Off Our Beaches 

Another 3 month trial of SMART drumlines will be carried out across northern Sydney beaches from 30 August – 1 December 2019.
This trial will repeat the previous trial carried out at the start of 2019.

SMART drumlines were placed across two areas near existing shark nets to compare how this new technology performs at:
Barrenjoey to Newport beaches at Palm, Whale, Avalon, Bilgola and Newport; and
Dee Why to Manly beaches at Dee Why, Curl Curl, Freshwater, Queenscliff and Manly.

For more information on the trial, read the Barrenjoey to Newport fact sheet (PDF, 13889.89 KB) and the Dee Why to Manly fact sheet(PDF, 13084.33 KB).

The NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) is trialling 10 SMART (Shark-Management-Alert-InReal-Time) drumlines across Sydney beaches from 30 August - 1 December 2019.

Each day, 10 SMART drumlines will be set in the morning and collected in the evening (weather dependent) across Each day, 10 SMART drumlines will be set in the morning and collected in the evening (weather dependent) across Palm, Whale, Avalon, Bilgola and
Newport beaches, as well as Dee Why, Curl Curl, Freshwater, Queenscliff and Manly beaches, located near existing shark nets to compare how this new technology performs. They are not left out overnight.

SMART drumlines are new technology that allow target sharks to be intercepted beyond the surf break; once caught, they are tagged and relocated 1km offshore.

‘Target sharks’ are White, Bull and Tiger sharks as they are the species mainly involved in shark bites in NSW.
Currently, DPI is successfully trialling 35 SMART drumlines between Evans Head and Lennox Head and has completed trials at Coffs Harbour, Forster, Kiama, and Ulladulla.

Trials in NSW have shown that SMART drumlines are effective at managing target sharks with minimal impact on the marine environment. Reports from other trials can be found on our website at

DPI manages the NSW Government’s five-year Shark Management Strategy. SMART drumlines are one of the new technologies that are being trialled for shark management along with drones and helicopters for aerial surveillance.

This is the first time SMART drumlines will be trialled in Sydney and will complement the NSW Government’s Shark Meshing (nets) Program. Sharks tagged in the trial will allow DPI and the community to monitor shark movements along the NSW coast.

The locations of the SMART drumlines and nets are shown in the maps below:

Valerie Taylor AM, 88, and Bailey Mason attended the Shark Nets Out Now protest at Manly on Saturday December 3rd, 2022