Shark net figures show massive amount of marine bycatch
Data from a controversial two-stage trial of shark nets off the New South Wales north coast shows that 420 marine animals were caught, but only 11 were target species.
The latest figures from a second meshing trial in the area have just been released by the Department of Primary Industries.
In five months since late November, when a modified net design was tested, 145 animals were caught, but only two were target sharks.
At the same time, 11 target species — three great whites, three tiger sharks, and five bull sharks — were caught by smart drumlines in the area, which had minimal bycatch.
Former president of the Le-Ba (Lennox-Ballina) Boardriders Club, Don Munro, campaigned for the installation of nets after a spate of serious attacks in the region ignited a heated debate.
He has now sensed a change in community attitudes, because of the concerning amount of bycatch.
"There is definitely not the same support for nets that there was," Mr Munro said.
"Everybody has to be concerned about the bycatch. We always have been, but up until now we didn't have the drumlines, which have worked so brilliantly that we can look at not having those nets."
Five nets were installed off beaches between Lennox and Evans Head during two trials that covered summer and spring of 2016–17 and 2017–18.
Among the bycatch found dead in the nets were eight dolphins, nine turtles, 34 protected great hammerhead sharks and more than 100 rays.
Local dolphin population 'decimated'
Ballina's Deputy Mayor, Keith Williams, has described the figures as shameful.
"The local Richmond River pod of bottlenose dolphins is about 60 animals," he said. "Over the last two shark-net trials we've now killed eight dolphins.
"We've decimated the local population, and that's something I feel shame about. I think the data is really clear. The smart drumlines are so much more effective at catching the target sharks than any other method.
"The nets are really not working."
The New South Wales Government has said it would consult with scientists and the community before making a decision about future shark mitigation strategies for the region.
// BRUCE MACKENZIE
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