Proof they only offer a false sense of security

Ray caught in shark netRay caught in shark netShark nets within New South Wales have been known to authorities as only offering a false sense of security, as early as 1946 when the then Premier, William McKell stated that there were “quite valueless” going on to say that “if meshing alone were used, I fear it would prove to be of little value…Worse, it would possibly lull the public into a sense of false security…”

This statement was made after the nets were removed from Sydney beaches in January 1943 for three years so that the fisheries vessels that were used to service them, could be used by the Americans in the Second World War. During this time, not one unwanted shark encounter at the 18 Sydney beaches where mesh nets were then installed, took place.

Despite this, consecutive New South Wales Premiers from 1947 to 1992 have rolled out the shark meshing programme (SMP), to 51 beaches in New South Wales.

With the fifth shark encounter in Northern New South Wales recently taking place in the past five months, Jeff Hansen, Managing Director for Sea Shepherd Australia is calling for a measured and educated approach to the situation, pointing to the fact that since shark nets were installed in New South Wales in October 1937, there has been 39 unwanted shark encounters at netted beaches, including the tragic fatality of a local surf ski champion Frank Olkulich (21) who was fatality bitten at a Newcastle Beach called Merewether while treading water in 1951.

“Shark nets are an ineffective way to reduce shark encounters, in fact it was only three months after shark nets were first introduced, that the first unwanted shark encounter took place in Sydney at a netted beach,” Jeff Hansen said. “Since September 1992, there has been 21 unwanted shark encounters at netted beaches in NSW; almost one per year.”

Recent shark encounters at meshed beaches include the shark incident in February 2009 at Bondi Beach when Glen Orgias (33) lost his left hand after being bitten by a 2.5m white shark while surfing, the severe bite that Andrew Lindop (15) received by a suspected 2.6m white shark at Avalon Beach on 1 March 2009 and the major bite that surfer Glen Folkard also received by a bull shark at Redhead Beach, north of Sydney in January 2012.”

Whale caught in shark netWhale caught in shark netIt is for these reasons, and the gross amount of by-catch that shark nets entrap and kill, including rays, dugongs, whales and dolphins, that Sea Shepherd Australia supports the use of advanced non-lethal solutions to facilitate unwanted shark encounters.

For years now, the Department of Primary Industries (DPI), New South Wales has stated, “no feasible alternatives to the measures in the SMP are currently considered viable to trial”. However Shark Spotters, a program that has been keeping ocean users safe in Cape Town, South Africa for over a decade, has never been mentioned or considered in reports. The same can be said about the Eco Shark Barrier, which has been used in Western Australia since December 2013 to keep swimmers safe and has recorded zero by-catch.

The harsh reality is that shark nets are merely a false sense of security that trap and kill whales, dolphins, rays and other marine life every year.

Back in 1943, the premier was shouting that same message, that shark nets are merely a false sense of security. It’s now 2015 and still no one is listening. We no longer have to choose between protecting human life or marine life; in 2015 we can do both.

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