Male Sea LionA Leatherback turtle caught and killed in shark nets (Photo Credit: Sea Shepherd).

ON August 3, 2018, the New South Wales' Department of Primary Industries (DPI) released the community survey results from the North Coast second shark net trial. The results confirmed what many have known all along; that the net trial has been nothing but a failure in terms of public safety and has indiscriminately killed marine life.

Only 11 target sharks were caught between 2016 and 2018. During the second trial, 145 animals were caught with 58 found dead. The remaining 87 animals were released fate unknown.

Sea Shepherd spokesperson, Allyson Jennings, said: “Local community confidence in the nets has fallen below 30% after the latest survey, with non-lethal alternatives such as drones, tagging programs and education rating highly with local residents. This should tell NSW DPI and the NSW Government that the local communities in Ballina Shire and Richmond Valley don’t want ineffective ocean safety methods such as nets.”

Another of the highest rating alternatives to nets was personal responsibility, showing a support rate of up to 92%. This indicated that most of the survey respondents accepted the risk taken when they chose to enter the ocean.

Nearly 70% of residents found the level of by-catch in both trials completely unacceptable. Dolphins, rays, turtles and non-target shark species became victims of the shark nets.

In April 2018, a rare large Leatherback turtle was found washed up dead on a beach in Yamba. Two days before its death, it was found struggling in a shark net by NSW DPI contractors who released the animal despite its poor condition. This animal should have immediately been taken to Australian Seabird Rescue, instead, it was condemned to die from stress and its injuries.

news 40818 Leatherback

A critically endangered Leatherback sea turled that died in April 2018 due to shark nets (Image Credit: Australian Seabird Rescue).

Australian Seabird Rescue General Manager Kathrina Southwell said “The death of one critically endangered Leatherback sea turtle should be enough to put an end to these ridiculous trials. Marine life doesn’t need to die to protect ocean users when there are non-lethal alternatives available.”

NSW DPI has never been forthcoming with how they expect the trial to be successful. There has been no mention of processes, objectives or outcomes despite previous claims of public consultation and transparency which have largely been ignored. To the public, it appears that they are flying by the seat of their pants and it’s this sort of behaviour which places distrust in the scientific community when science should be the guide.

“Sea Shepherd Australia calls upon NSW DPI and government representatives to prove this trial was guided by science. This expensive trial has been nothing more than a passive fishing activity with no clear objectives. It has provided a false sense of safety to local communities, killed marine animals unnecessarily and wasted public money. A third trial should not be considered.” Ms Jennings said.

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