Commentary by Allyson Jennings – NSW Apex Harmony Coordinator:
On Tuesday 12th December, our Apex Harmony crew was out on the water off Seven Mile Beach in Lennox Head documenting and recording when they came across a 1.5m Dusky Whaler shark, not long dead in the net. Dusky whalers are timid sharks and will swim away when approached.
Some people claim that because there have been no shark incidents since the nets were put in, the nets work. But correlation does not equal causation. There were also periods of time where there were no shark incidents in the Ballina region before the shark nets were installed.
A 150m net was set for Seven Mile Beach which is 8.5km long. How can a 150m net adequately protect a beach 8.5km in length? It can’t.
This small shark died needlessly in a net which provides nothing but a false sense of security for ocean users. This shark had also become a free feed for any passing shark to scavenge. How is that an effective public safety measure?
The Australian Government Senate Inquiry Committee released its final report into shark mitigation and deterrents yesterday. Its first recommendation is for shark nets to be phased out and replaced by non lethal alternatives. We agree and it must happen. It’s time to stop playing politics with this issue.
Senate Committee Chair Senator Peter Whish-Wilson also said “We heard no evidence that shark nets remove or materially reduce the risk of shark bites. Recently one attack occurred on a netted beach on the Central Coast and attacks are more related to the absence of surf-life saving patrols rather than the presence of nets.”
The data from the last net trial shows unequivocally that it was a failure. 275 animals caught with only 9 target sharks. Only 47% of animals caught were released alive. Threatened and endangered species such as hammerheads, grey nurse sharks and turtles were also caught.
33% of the local community felt positive about the nets post first trial. Over 65% felt that the bycatch was unacceptable. $1,048,065 was spent in 6 months for the net trial. A trial which is a waste of taxpayers money to provide the local community with the illusion of ocean safety and kills marine life. In comparison, the 51 location NSW Shark Meshing Program costs an estimated $6 million for 5 years.
The local communities in the Ballina region deserve better non-lethal ocean safety solutions than the band aid fix of shark nets. Our marine life deserves to continue to exist and enrich our oceans without the risk of dying a slow death by strangulation. We don’t have to choose one or the other, we can have both.
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