Shark incident at Shelly Beach shows shark nets are not the answer
Today’s shark incident at a netted beach on the NSW Central Coast where a surfer was bitten on the hand demonstrates the folly of treating shark netting as a guarantee of surfer protection and an answer to preventing shark encounters. With approximately 40% of shark entanglements in shark nets occurring on the beach-side of the nets and now 40 shark incidents and 1 fatality at netted beaches, Humane Society International (HSI) calls on the NSW Government to rule out extending the states’ outdated shark netting program to beaches on the NSW North Coast.
Contrary to many people’s understanding of shark net operation, shark nets do not form an impenetrable physical barrier between the beach and the ocean. Shark incidents at netted beaches have occurred in the past. The same 2012 study that reported that 40% of sharks entangled in nets were on the beach-side of the net also concluded that any apparent drop in the rate of fatalities after the beginning of the shark netting program in the 1930’s was likely due to improvements in beach-front response time and first aid procedures.
Verna Simpson, HSI Director said, “It is concerning that the NSW Government appears to be caving to campaigns from some parts of the media which want to see shark nets and possibly even drumlines installed on the NSW North Coast. Shark nets are not the answer. They do not guarantee safety and their impact on marine ecosystems is devastating. They are in fact a culling program that indiscriminately kills a variety of marine species including threatened species.”
“HSI calls on the NSW Government not to buckle under pressure from the media. Today’s incident at Shelly Beach shows that shark nets cannot be held up as a solution to shark encounters which are a fact of life in a beach-loving nation such as Australia. When entering the water, surfers and beach-users understand that they are assuming a certain level of risk that extends to being caught in rips, on-water accidents and includes shark encounters. Neither shark nets nor shark culling by deploying drumlines will guarantee a person’s safety, but they do guarantee ongoing impacts on our marine ecosystem and on many threatened species,” Ms Simpson concluded.
 McPhee, D.P. (2012) Likely Effectiveness of Netting or Other Capture Programs as a Shark Hazard Mitigation Strategy under Western Australian Conditions.