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New survey results reveal nearly three quarters of people living in coastal NSW towns with shark nets support replacing them with alternatives like drones and personal shark deterrents.
The NSW Government and Department of Primary Industries have made significant progress in trialling non-lethal swimmer protection alternatives to shark nets. The survey, conducted by conservation organisation Humane Society International, indicates that these trials seem to have significantly boosted public confidence in non-lethal swimmer protection measures.
When surveyed, the majority (74%) of people living in coastal Local Government Areas (LGAs) that have shark nets wanted to see shark nets replaced with non-lethal alternatives, while support for non-lethal alternatives such as drones, personal shark deterrents, and SMART drumlines was overwhelming (88%, 82%, and 74% respectively).
The survey follows last year’s unanimous decision by local councils with shark nets on their ocean beaches to pass motions or send requests to the NSW Department of Primary Industries for the removal of shark nets.
NSW is one of the few places in the world that uses shark nets as a form of swimmer protection, alongside Queensland and South Africa. With promising alternative solutions like drones and personal deterrents exist with widespread support, it is difficult to understand why NSW continues to put the destructive shark nets back in the water every summer.
Especially when scientists are very clear that nets are not an effective swimmer protection measure.
Shark nets are not complete barriers and they are not able to keep sharks away from the beach. But science today says culling doesn’t work. Inevitably, hundreds of other marine animals like turtles, dolphins, whales, and rays are also caught and killed by shark nets every year. During the 2021/22 shark net season alone, 376 animals were caught in NSW’s shark nets, but only 13.5% were actually target species, and 54% of marine animals caught were threatened or protected. Of those threatened and protected species, 77% were killed.
Lawrence Chlebeck, marine biologist for Humane Society International, said, “The polling makes it clear the public does not want shark nets anymore. We have all eight councils with shark nets formally requesting to have them removed and nearly three-quarters of residents in these areas want to see them pulled out and replaced with non-lethal alternatives. It feels like a no-brainer. Shark nets are a relic of the 1930s. Today we know that they don’t work. They are very destructive. Their time is up.”
Dr Leonardo Guida, shark scientist at the Australian Marine Conservation Society, said, “It’s heartening to see well-informed communities showing leadership for beach safety—the question now is, will the NSW Government show just as much leadership and support the communities’ desire for improved beach safety using non-lethal strategies?”