Shark nets and drumlines are an outdated and ineffective method of protection for ocean users. These programs have significant impacts on the broader marine environment, and they are not proven to decrease the risk of shark bites or fatalities to people.
A 2016 Deakin University study found that there is no change in risk of shark bite between beaches with or without nets. There have also been 14 human-shark interractions at beaches in the vicinity of drumlines in Queensland.
Shark culling continues to occur in two states in Australia.
In NSW, there are 51 shark nets installed in beaches from Newcastle to Wollongong, including at all Sydney beaches. These nets were installed in the 1930s to prevent human and shark interactions, however since that time they have amassed a shocking death toll of marine life. Not only sharks, but turtles, dolphins, rays and seals all have fallen victim to NSW shark nets.
There were also shark nets installed on the NSW North Coast between 2017-2018, as part of a trial by the NSW Government to reduce shark incidents in the area. The first six months of this trial found that 97% of animals caught in the nets were non-target species, with critically endangered, threatened and protected and completely harmless species the majority of the trial’s death toll. The trial was abandoned after sustained community protest to the bycatch figures, however SMART drumlines have remained in the area. SMART drumlines are intended to be non-lethal, however HSI has reservations about the post-release mortality for non-tagged animals such as hammerheads and grey nurse sharks that can be caught on the equipment. When an animal is caught on the SMART drumlines a signal is sent to a contractor to inspect the drumline, to release non target animals and to tag any target shark and tow it out to sea for release.
In QLD, there are both lethal drumlines and shark nets installed in the state. In the World Heritage Listed Great Barrier Reef, there are 173 lethal drumlines in operation designed to catch and kill sharks. The Queensland Government lists 19 species of sharks on its target list, meaning that any of those species which haven’t already been killed on a drumline will be shot dead. Only three species of the 19 are considered to be dangerous to humans. The permit for the QLD Government to continue its lethal shark control program in the Great Barrier Reef is not set to expire until 2027. Tens of thousands of hammerhead sharks alone have been caught and killed as part of the program since the 1960s. HSI is currently challenging the shark control program in court, arguing for non-lethal technology to be implemented instead and an end to the euthanasia policy for the 19 species of shark. Before the legal action, there were 26 species of shark on the target list but seven have since been removed. Take action to end shark culling in the Great Barrier Reef here.
The WA Government had been adopting a completely non-lethal approach to shark control until this year, when the McGowan Government announced there will be a SMART drumline trial at Gracetown in 2019.
HSI supports the removal of nets and drumlines, replaced with non-lethal technology to avoid interactions with sharks. Aerial surveillance technologies like drones and shark spotters, personal shark deterrent devices, swimming or surfing at patrolled beaches and always avoiding swimming at dusk and dawn are some of the measures that should be promoted by State and Federal Governments.