‘Shark nets not effective’ on Bondi Beach

‘Shark nets not effective’ on Bondi Beach

If the local mayor had her way, shark nets wouldn't be installed at Sydney's Bondi beach this summer.

Animal welfare campaigners argue that nets aren't effective and kill too many other marine animals and more politicians are joining the movement.

Waverley Council's mayor, Paula Masselos, said on Thursday that shark nets should be removed from her local government area, including Bondi Beach.

The state government, which is responsible for the netting program, has advised that it wants alternatives that increase safety for water users without harm to marine life.

Masselos said there was no way shark nets could be considered particularly effective because each one was only 150 metres long, six metres high and set at a depth of 10 metres for a part of the year.

Masselos told Guardian Australia they don't even cover the whole beach.

They are not designed to be a barrier between swimmers and sharks, but they are there to disrupt the swimming pattern of the shark. People say they are proven to be effective in stopping shark attacks. There are a lot of strategies that we could have in place to mitigate shark attacks. Masselos said there had only been one incident on Bondi Beach, in February 2009, when a non-fatal attack occurred while the nets were in place.

She said that the amount of marine life caught in the nets each year was terrible. Nets are installed at 51 beaches from Newcastle to Wollongong, where the majority of people in NSW swim and surf. The program was introduced in 1937.

According to a recent DPI report on shark net performance, 376 marine animals were tangled in NSW nets in 2021 -- 22. The target sharks included 51 target sharks and 325 non-target animals. The target sharks included 28 white sharks, 12 bull sharks and 11 tiger sharks. The other marine life caught by the nets included 149 non-target sharks such as grey nurse sharks and hammerheads, 130 rays, 40 turtles, one dolphin and one humpback whale.

Just over a third of the animals caught in nets were released alive.

Masselos said they were shocking numbers. The animals caught there will struggle. It is just awful. Masselos'comments echo those of other political figures, including Central Coast MP Adam Crouch, who has been campaigning for the state government to trial the removal of shark nets in his electorate.

I welcome the comments made by Masselos Crouch on Thursday. Most people don't know where the nets are on the Central Coast and the shark nets give a false sense of security. There is no signage.

This is something all our regions need to look at, but the community needs to be part of the journey. The Waverley council voted a year ago to pass a resolution making its position clear and Masselos said the council had restated its position during a recent review conducted by the Department of Primary Industries DPI, which owns and manages nets.

The mayor said the council would like to deploy a combination of smart drum lines, drones and sonar listening buoys.

Smart drum lines work by sending a signal to authorities when marine life is caught, allowing potentially harmful sharks to be tagged before being released. A warning can be issued and the situation monitored using drones when these sharks come within range of sonar listening buoys.

NSW has invested $86 million in smart drum lines and the Waverley council voted this week to investigate setting up a shark spotting drone program for its lifeguards.

We are seeing more sharks on the beach side of the nets, so obviously it is not working, and we are seeing more people in the water, Messelos said.