NSW Sharks Nets Catch Endangered Species, Not 'Target' Sharks

nsw greynurse

The grey nurse shark is listed as critically endangered but has been caught in the NSW shark nets (Photo: MarclSchauer/Shutterstock)

Figures from a 'shark meshing' trial off the northern coast of New South Wales show that only one 'target' shark (great whites, tigers and bull sharks, which are deemed to be dangerous to humans) was caught during November and December 2017, but other species of shark, turtles and rays – some of them protected as vulnerable or endangered species – were killed instead.

Since the trial began on 23 November, as of 31 December a total of 54 animals from 12 different species were caught in the shark nets, with 24 of the animals dying, including 1 green turtle, 1 hawksbill turtle, 2 great hammerheads, 3 common blacktips, a spinner shark, 7 Australian cownose rays and 9 pygmy devil rays. 

Furthermore, 1 manta (species not identified), 2 loggerhead turtles and one critically endangered grey nurse shark were caught in the nets, although these animals survived. In total, just one 'target' shark, a bull shark, was trapped in the nets and also survived.

nsw pygmydevilray

Pygmy devil rays are a species of mobula, and pose no threat to anything but plankton (Photo: Sergey Uryadnikov/ Shutterstock)

The latest trial was an attempt to reduce bycatch from the shark nets, after a disastrous earlier trial which ran from 8 December 2016 to 30 May 2017, in which 275 animals were trapped and 147 of them killed, including 23 endangered great hammerhead sharks and 4 bottlenose dolphins. Just 9 target sharks were caught.

In the latest trial, nets of differing design and height were installed in an attempt to prevent accidental bycatch of non-targeted species. Comparison between similar date ranges shows that just 5 fewer animals were caught within a 4-week period in the latest trial.

'This report is yet more evidence the shark netting program in NSW does little to keep people safe in the water but takes a terrible toll on local marine life,' said Green MP Justin Field, who is calling on the NSW Department for Primary Industries (DPI) to bring an early end to the meshing program. 'A recent Senate report found people are 100 times more likely to drown at the beach than to be killed by a shark in Australia. The risk is infinitesimally small,' he added.

nsw greathammer

Great hammerheads are listed as endangered, but pose little threat to humans (Photo: Tomas Kotouc/Shutterstock)

Niall Blair, the Minister for Primary Industries accused Mr Field of using the report to run a 'scare campaign' over the Australian summer. 'The NSW government is committed to trialling and testing the best technology in the world to address shark attacks in NSW and will continue to work closely with local communities and all affected stakeholders,' said Mr Blair.

New South Wales is not the only Australian state to come in for criticism over its treatment of sharks, as a 2017 cull in Queensland which resulted in at least 228 sharks being killed by the time of the report in June of that year.

Fatal shark attacks, although tragic when they do occur, are still very rare, even with the increasing number of people that venture into their territory. Shark tracking website trackingsharks.com reports a 2017 total of just 6 fatal shark attacks worldwide, in comparison to the hundreds of sharks that have been needlessly slaughtered to 'protect humans', or the estimated 100 million sharks that are killed each year, a large percentage of which are killed for only their fins.

Full reports for the New South Wales Department for Primary Industries' North Coast shark net trial can be found on the DPI website. The table below lists the complete statistics from the 2016-2017 meshing trial.

nsw sharkdata





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