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Calls to remove shark nets from Australian beaches

Australia’s top shark biologists and conservationists call for the permanent removal of shark nets from all east coast beaches.

Although the nets are designed to protect swimmers against shark attacks, there are serious concerns about their effectiveness and the number and deaths of endangered species.

Queensland has 26 shark nets that are in place throughout the year. New South Wales has 51 and is responsible for removing them during whale migration season. The maintenance and operation of the nets is done by state governments.

Sky News traveled by boat from Sydney’s coast, to view the nets at Manly in north Sydney.


Their length is striking. They measure only 150m in length, but the beach measures half a mile.

Similar story at Bondi beach: nets do not cover all of the length, but only a portion.

Lawrence Chlebeck, a biologist at the Humane Society International, says that sharks can swim over, around, and under the nets.

“In reality, 40% of sharks get caught in the nets trying to escape to open water.”

Annual Shark Meshing Program Reports from New South Wales have shown that more than 90% of the fish caught in nets are non-target species and often endangered marine life.

The Envoy Foundation, a shark advocacy organization, obtained photos and video of the marine life captured in the nets using Australia’s Freedom of Information Act.

Andre Borrel, Envoy Foundation’s founder, says, “The worst stuff that we have found is probably dead baby dolphins and dead seals, or dead turtles.”

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Image: Nets can catch animals that aren’t supposed to be there. Pic: Mother Ocean Freediving

Mayors and councils are calling for an end to the nets.

Paula Masselos, Waverley Council Mayor, wants them removed from Bondi Beach. She told Sky News that 376 animals were caught in nets during the summer of 2021-2022. 325 of them were non-target species.

Queensland’s Department of Fisheries stated that it will continue to invest into its Shark Control Program, even though nets are not an “impermeable barrier” between sharks & humans.

According to the Australian Shark Incident Database, 14 shark attacks have occurred in Australia over the past five years.

Lauren Sandeman, a biologist at conservation group Sea Shepherd, says that approximately 85% of shark interactions in Sydney occur on netted beaches.

For survivors of shark attacks it is life-changing and unforgettable.

Image Brett Connellan, a survivor of a shark attack

Seven years ago, a Great White shark mauled surfer Brett Connellan.

Brett recalls, “It’s terrifying and all your worst fears come true.”

“You’re frozen. You can’t have conscious thought until your instinct response kicks in.

He would like to see nets taken down despite his years of experience.

He says, “I would love to see them go.” “I’d love to see people feel safe and comfortable in the water, but not at any cost to marine life.


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