Shark Nets

By Matthew Essex

By Matthew Essex

Salty Swims Co Founder

Time spent on the beach and in the ocean is an integral part of life in Australia. 80 per cent of the population live by the coast and enjoy world-class surf, fishing and snorkelling opportunities. Naturally, this brings Aussies face-to-face with wildlife, and the coastal waters here support a healthy ecosystem and a wide variety of marine life, including Whales, Turtles, Dolphins, Rays and of course, Sharks.

There are more than 180 species of shark found in Australia and most of which are completely harmless to humans, although there are only a few which can pose a threat – The Great White, Tiger and Bull Sharks. They’ve evolved over 400 million years to be phenomenal predators, striking paranoia in ocean-goers. Their ‘attacks’, although misunderstood, have brought them head-to-head with humans. They poses such a weighty advantage over us, perfectly adapted for hunting in the water, that we fear them – and it’s through this fear in 1962 that we clutched at something, anything to put in the water and make us feel safe. They became the target of shark nets.  

The Shark Net Film

An individual shark net is 186 metres long x 4-6 metres deep and hangs below the surface from floats, anchored to the seafloor and usually running parallel to the beach. On the Gold Coast there is 32 kilometres of coastline and a total of 2 kilometres of nets. Their purpose is to capture and kill targeted species of sharks by entanglement. In reality, their victimology is random, capturing and killing indiscriminately all wildlife too large to fit through the meshing. In New South Wales, nets trap 16 times more non-target species than the three target sharks they aim to catch, and statistics show dolphins, turtles and stingrays make up 94 per cent of the marine life caught.

There’s a lot of news and information that can be found online. Recently there was a story in EchoNetDaily, after three whales were caught over three months on the Gold Coast, and a legend-of-a-man was almost charged $90,000 for freeing marine life from nets. 

My suggestion… watch The Shark Net Film by Marine Biologist, Holly Richmond. It’s an informative and well researched short film that aims to educate the public on the shark net program in Queensland.

The Placebo Effect vs. Alternatives

The Placebo Affect:

Once you understand the way shark nets work, it’s easy to see how ineffective they are. Sharks can easily go around or under, this results in 40 per cent of sharks being caught on the inside of the net, facing out to sea. This false sense of security has been in place since the 60’s, and at the cost of marine life and ecosystems.

Alternatives:

These are a just a few I know about but please head online and research new technologies for yourself – If you find anything of interest, please return to this blog and share your thoughts with us.
(Disclaimer: I’ve written the following as known options to mitigate shark ‘attacks’, they may or may not completely prevent shark ‘attacks’ and Salty Swims, nor I, hold any responsibility towards their effectiveness).

  1. Shark Smart WA App – This app is currently in use in Western Australia. It combines shark activity information, beach safety information and weather forecasts, to help you plan your trip. Select your favourite coastal locations and use notifications to receive relevant updates and sightings as they happen.

  2. Aerial Surveillance – If a large shark is spotted from the sky, life savers can be informed immediately to alert ocean-goers through flags and sirens on the beach. Recorded sightings can then be input into the Shark Smart App to help more ocean goers plan ahead and to record valuable information to help with scientists to better understand shark behaviour and assist future efforts to conserve.

    i. Drones – Operated by a trained pilot on the ground where real-time footage can be analysed.
    ii. Helicopter/Spotter Plane – Aerial patrols such as Western Australia’s Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter.
    iii. Spotter Programs – Trained staff are located at elevated positions, armed with binoculars and a radio. Just as they do successfully in South Africa.

  1. Personal Shark Deterrents – Shark shields/ Shank Banz/ there is even a black & white stripped wetsuit that disguises it’s wearer to appear as a poisonous sea serpent to repel on-coming sharks – there’s a few brands and options online, so have a look around and research them properly.

    Do you live in Western Australia? A $200 rebate is offered to residents who purchase approved devices. One such deterrent device is designed to attach to a surfboard – the Ocean Guardian FREEDOM+.

  2. Be SHARK SMART & Educate yourself – The NSW Government gives this advice:
  • Tell an on-duty lifesaver or lifeguard if a shark is spotted near swimmers or surfers.
  • Don’t swim too far from shore.
  • Swim in groups.
  • Avoid swimming and surfing when it’s dark or during twilight hours.
  • Avoid murky water, waters with known effluents or sewage.
  • Avoid areas used by recreational or commercial fishers.
  • Avoid areas with signs of baitfish or fish feeding activity; diving seabirds are a good indicator of fish activity.
  • Do not rely on sightings of dolphins to indicate the absence of sharks; both often feed together on the same food.
  • Be aware that sharks may be present between sandbars or near steep drop-offs.
  • Avoid swimming in canals, and swimming or surfing in river/harbour mouths.
  • Avoid having pets in the water with you.
  • Do not swim/surf near or interfere with shark nets. (If marine life is caught within it, Sharks may be attracted to it).

What can you do to help?

Step 1. Education – Read this blog and watch The Shark Net Film .

Step 2. Share – Unify the community and share this topic around.

Step 3. Support – Vote for any positive change.

Shark Nets

Humpbacks-and-High-Rises have got a plan – With your support, they hope to lift the nets in areas of high risk to visiting Humpback Whales. It’s a step in the right direction – Click here to be directed to their petition page.

#NETSOUTNOW

Thanks for reading. Please do leave your comments, we appreciate any feedback you have. You can also join our mailing list below if you like, that way we can make sure that you don’t miss our next blog. AND, if you have any questions or a positive topic you would like to share, please feel welcome to email me directly at the bottom of the page.

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