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Alternatives to shark nets wanted by councils, urged by experts

Biologists have slammed the use of shark nets that don’t necessarily prevent shark attacks but do kill marine life such as dolphins and turtles that become tangled in the nets.

Councils around NSW – including Waverley Council, which is responsible for Bondi Beach – are advocating for better shark management solutions.

Shark nets are installed at 51 beaches from Newcastle to Wollongong every year from September through to April.

Just weeks ahead of the shark nets rollout, the state government is waiting on word from eight councils, according to The Guardian.

The nets are to deter sharks from establishing territories, rather than providing complete protection to those in the water, according to a spokesperson from the NSW government.

However, shark nets have become increasingly controversial.

Shark nets at Bondi Beach might soon be a thing of the past.

‘Outdated safety measure’

“It’s a technology reflective of the 1930s. It is now out of date, nearly 100 years old,” Lawrence Chlebeck, a marine biologist and campaigner at Humane Society International told The New Daily.

“Not only does it not reduce the risk of shark bites, but it is killing marine wildlife.”

Dr Leonardo Guida from the Australian Marine Conservation Society says it is crucial for the NSW government to modernise its beach safety standards.

“We wouldn’t accept 80-year-old safety standards in our homes, our workplaces, our schools, or anywhere, so the beach should not be any different,” he said.

The mayor of Waverley, Paula Masselos, wants to find a better solution and has in the past voted to oppose the nets.

“We’re in the 21st century and there’s got to be a better way,” Ms Masselos told The Guardian.

“We’re happy to work with the department to work out better options.”

Dr Guida commended Ms Masselos for her “courageous position” in opposition to the nets.

New solutions

The NSW government has evidence-based, modern day solutions to keep people safe at the beach, Dr Guida said.

“In fact, they’ve been using them for several years now and these include drones and the tagging and tracking of sharks and also a fairly good … shark education program both in person and on social media,” he said.

“So they have effective, evidence-based tools that they are using, which makes shark nets all the more redundant.

“And the reality is they need to implement modernised safety standards. Get the nets out, keep the drones up.”

A danger to marine life

Shark nets don’t cover an entire stretch of beach, so it is still possible for beachgoers to encounter the oceans’ apex predators.

However, the nets do capture an ” inordinate” number of threatened or endangered species, such as dolphins and turtles, Dr Guida said.

Marine life die after becoming tangled in the nets.

Shark nets are also used in Queensland, where they are deployed throughout the entire year, and Western Australia.

Some beaches in Western Australia have “beach enclosures” to prevent sharks getting in.

Understanding sharks

In addition to tracking and drones, education is the best way to keep people safe, Mr Chlebeck said.

When a shark attack occurs, it is usually a case of mistaken identity and they’re not out hunting humans.

Sharks are more likely to be foraging at dawn, dusk and into the night, so the best time of day to go swimming and reduce the chance of seeing a shark is in the middle of the day, Mr Chlebeck said.

He also said swimming in a group is safer, and swimmers should avoid areas where people are fishing or cleaning fish.

“The more we understand about these animals, the more that we understand about the ocean, the more people are going to realise that killing animals … right off our popular beaches is probably the worst way to reduce the risk of shark bite,” he said.

Shark attacks are rare in Australia, which has one the most recorded shark encounters in the world.

There were 57 shark attacks around the world in 2022, according to the International Shark attack file. Of those, nine were in Australia. Stella Berry, 16, was killed by a bull shark in Perth’s Swan River in early 2023.

Shark attacks were  “rare, tragic incidents”, Dr Guida said.

“Whilst nobody is to blame for it … there is a responsibility to objectively improve safety. And this requires using evidence-based approaches.”

https://thenewdaily.com.au/life/science/2023/08/04/shark-net-alternatives-bondi-beach/ Alternatives to shark nets wanted by councils, urged by experts

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