Shark nets may become an endangered species after Northern Beaches Council joined calls to ban them from our beaches. The council voted unanimously in favour of more efficient and less harmful shark protection technologies, including drones and SMART drum lines.
Good For Manly President and Deputy Mayor Candy Bingham welcomed the decision, saying the Council had 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.
A recent five-year Government study found that of the 2,399 animals caught in the nets, only 171 - or 7% - were the 'target sharks'. That means 93% of captured animals were 'bycatch' - harmless sharks, rays, dolphins and turtles. Even worse, 55% of these animals drown.
In comparison SMART drumlines resulted in less than 1% death rate for captured animals. And the catch was far more successfully targeted, with 70% being the target sharks and only 30% bycatch. These lines, which are baited with mullet, send out an alert once an animal is captured. Within an hour the animal is either released, or if it's a dangerous shark, tagged and taken far out to sea. A bonus, is that the tags mean a shark data base can be created.
Another shark net negative is that contrary to what many people think, they don't enclose the beach. They run for relatively short distances and have gaps above and below them. In fact 40% of sharks are captured on the beach side of the nets!
The Council joins Randwick, Waverly and Wollongong councils in calling for a shark net ban, as well as the 70% of Northern Beaches residents, who supported a ban in a recent poll.
While the Council's decision is a positive step, the NSW Dept of Primary Industries & Fisheries is the body tasked with protecting our beaches. Despite everything, they say they currently have no plans to move away from shark nets.
Candy Bingham, Deputy Mayor & Manly Ward Councillor on Northern Beaches Council. Background in marketing, public relations and community engagement. Author of five business books. Former Lady Mayoress of Sydney. Aka Candy Tymson.