December 4 - 10, 2022: Issue 565


Northern beaches shark net death trap continues: community calls for shark nets out now 

Valerie Taylor AM, 88, and Bailey Mason, not yet 20, attended the Shark Nets Out Now protest at Manly on Saturday December 3rd, 2022


Concerned locals and representatives from The Animal Justice Party, Animal Liberation, The Greens, Sea Shepherd Sydney, Action for Dolphins, Ocean Preservation and the Nets Out Now coalition have been brought together by Envoy: Shark Cull to demand that Nets are taken out of the oceans following the continuation of the indiscriminate killing of marine life along the Australian coastline. 

'Shark nets do nothing more than to provide a false sense of security for beach users.' the group states

'It is the Animal Justice Party position that lethal shark nets must be replaced with non-lethal mitigation methods as a matter of urgency. Over the past decade, whales and dolphins, rays, turtles, and  threatened or protected species have died in those nets. As a community we have the duty to protect our oceans not destroy them.'

Animal Justice Party Northern Beaches Member, Rally speaker and Animal Rights Advocate, Bailey Mason says “that the death toll is horrifying and is calling on the Ministers to instigate a ban on the killer nets.” The Northern Beaches council and an overwhelming number of locals here on the Northern Beaches support their removal as shown in 2021 when council voted against the continuation of the outdated net program. 

“Shark nets are cruel, indiscriminate and ineffective. They have no place on the beaches here on the Northern Beaches or anywhere across NSW. Research has demonstrated that shark nets do not effectively improve human safety in the water, instead they simply kill marine animals while allowing target species to swim over and around these floating death traps. Over half the animals including dolphins, whales and turtles unfortunate enough to become entangled in these deadly nets, will suffer a slow and painful death by drowning,” said Mr Bailey Mason.  

Animals found and released from shark nets are not guaranteed survival either because the stress and injury of entanglement often leads to their death soon after. 

With drone surveillance, helicopters, artificial kelp forest barriers, clever buoys, shark alert apps and listening stations, public education, personal deterrents and shark spotter programs, the public can swim safely without hundreds of animals killed each and every year. 

On Saturday December 3rd residents, Shark Nets Out members and supporters, The Animal Justice Party, Animal Liberation, The Greens, Sea Shepherd Sydney, Action for Dolphins, Ocean Preservation and the Nets Out Now coalition gathered on the Manly beachfront to make their case known.

“Together with the Northern Beaches community, we are calling on the Ministers to scrap their outdated shark net program and to invest in humane alternatives instead,” said Mr. Mason. 

Valerie May Taylor AM, conservationist, photographer, author and filmmaker, and an inaugural member of the diving hall-of-fame, attended the rally. With her husband Ron Taylor, she made documentaries about sharks, and filmed sequences for films including Jaws.

In May 2021 the Council called on the NSW government to remove shark nets on beaches in the Northern Beaches 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 May meeting 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.

Data released by the NSW Department of Primary Industries (‘DPI’) in the Shark Meshing (Bather Protection) Program 2021/22 Annual Performance Report shows that 21 threatened marine turtles were killed in the last shark net season off our beaches —a rate of one turtle every 12 days. Additionally, 14 Critically Endangered grey nurse sharks were caught, with five found dead and nine released. The death of just one grey nurse is a serious blow to the population.

  • All up 86% of marine animals caught in NSW shark nets during the 2021-2022 season were non-target species such as turtles, rays and smaller sharks. 
  • The Shark Meshing (Bather Protection) Program 2021/22 Annual Performance Report, released by NSW DPI, shows that of 376 animals caught, only 13.5% (51) were target species. Of the 376 animals caught in the nets, 62% (234) were killed. 
  • A total 203 (54%) of the animals caught during 2021-2022 were threatened or protected species, and 77% (156) of these animals died as a result of being caught in the nets.

The trigger point for the objective of ‘minimising the impact on non-target species and threatened species’ was tripped in 2021/22 for Green Turtles and Leatherback Turtles.

Other species of turtles have also been found deceased during the 2021/22 SMP, prompting some to state these are a result of nets being put into waters around storm events as the incidents of deaths rise shortly thereafter. 

In October 2021 a juvenile humpback whale was caught in a shark net at Whale Beach and was spotted around 2.30 in the afternoon, struggling.

The entanglement came only hours after a pregnant bronze whaler shark was freed off Mona Vale beach.

Marine Rescue Broken Bay was tasked with responding and ferried a member of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife to meet other members of a NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) specialist whale disentanglement team off the beach. ORRCA provided assistance.

Fortunately, at 7.10 pm, in fading light and strong winds, the NPWS Team were able to disentangle this juvenile humpback whale. However, the incidences of whales getting caught in shark nets and fishing nets has increased in recent years with the rise in population of these migrating mammals. ORCCA members work from before the actual whale migration season commences and throughout the journey north and then south again to disentangle the mammals from these potentially lethal ocean hazards.