October 29th, 2014 (Tom Westbrooke). Less than a tenth of creatures caught in shark nets from Manly to Palm Beach are the dangerous target species the nets are supposed to be trapping.
Eight target sharks were caught and found dead in nets on the northern beaches between September and April and 75 non-target animals, mostly rays and harmless hammerhead sharks were also entangled.
The bycatch makes up more than half of the non-target species caught on the stretch of coast from Stockton, near Newcastle, to South Wollongong, where 51 beaches have nets between spring and autumn.
BEACH BY BEACH
■ Manly: 1 smooth hammerhead, 2 Australian cownose rays, 1 ornate eagle ray
■ North Steyne: 6 Australian cownose rays, 1 stingray, 1 smooth hammerhead
■ Freshwater: 1 southern eagle ray, 6 Australian cownose rays
■ Curl Curl: 3 southern eagle rays
■ Dee Why: 1 smooth hammerhead, 1 southern eagle ray, 2 bottlenose dolphins
■ Narrabeen: 4 smooth hammerheads, 1 common blacktip shark, 1 shortfin mako, 1 Australian cownose ray, 2 green turtles, 2 southern eagle rays
■ North Narrabeen: 1 dusky whaler, 1 Australian angelshark, 3 green turtles, 2 Australian cownose rays, 4 southern eagle rays
■ Warriewood: 3 southern eagle rays
■ Mona Vale: 1 bull shark, 1 smooth hammerhead, 1 black stingray, 2 southern eagle rays, 1 humpback whale calf
■ Newport: 2 southern eagle rays, 1 bottlenose dolphin
■ Bilgola: 2 southern eagle rays, 1 dusky whaler
■ Avalon: 1 shortfin mako, 2 southern eagle rays
■ Whale Beach: 2 smooth hammerhead, 6 southern eagle rays
■ Palm Beach: 1 common blacktip shark, 1 smooth hammerhead, 1 shortfin mako, 1 white spotted eagle ray, 5 southern eagle rays
Between Manly and Palm Beach, three dolphins, a whale, eight rays and four green turtles were killed by the nets, which are designed to trap sharks and stop them from forming territories at swimming beaches.
Three shortfin mako sharks, two blacktips, two dusky whalers and a bull shark – all target species – were also found dead.
Sharnie Connell, a Manly Sea Life Sanctuary aquarist and founder of No NSW Shark Cull, said the level of bycatch, 90 per cent, was “unacceptable” and that even some of the target sharks, such as the broad-nosed sevengill shark, posed little danger to humans.
“The shark meshing program is a placebo,” she said.
“(It) only works to create an illusion of public safety, sharks are able to swim, over, under and around the nets.”
2 dusky whalers
2 common blacktip sharks
3 shortfin makos
1 bull shark
1 Australian angel shark
11 smooth hammerheads
5 green turtles
1 humpback whale calf
Manly Council has also called for a review of the shark meshing program to canvass alternatives.
The NSW Department of Primary Industries, who run the shark meshing program, said the nets are fitted with pingers to deter dolphins and whales. Non-target animals are freed and released alive wherever possible.
A department statement said that the meshing program is “highly successful” and that “no viable alternatives to shark nets have been found”.
■ Between 1934 and 1936 there were four fatal shark attacks on the northern beaches
■ Shark meshing was introduced to Sydney’s beaches in September 1937
■ There have been no fatal shark attacks at Sydney’s ocean beaches since then
■ In 2003 the NSW Scientific Committee determined that meshing threatens the survival of turtles, sharks, dolphins, dugongs and whales