Shark net figures show massive amount of marine bycatch

Bruce Mackenzie
Swellnet Dispatch

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
© Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

Comments

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Wednesday, 23 May 2018 at 1:01pm

What’s the word in the line up in the LeBa area these days ?

Sightings / interactions / sphincter tightening incidents up , down or sideways in frequency?

lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy commented Thursday, 24 May 2018 at 2:45pm

I've heard next to nothing.
Numbers in the lineups are back up too. Humans that is.

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming commented Wednesday, 23 May 2018 at 1:20pm

Seems pretty simple then ditch the nets and focus on drum lines.

I think i have a crush on Debra Soh.

yocal's picture
yocal's picture
yocal commented Wednesday, 23 May 2018 at 1:48pm

I guess it will be interesting to see if the number of hammerhead bycatches also reduces with drumlines only.
They are a spooky creature.

Go deeper Taylor, go deeper!

Sprout's picture
Sprout's picture
Sprout commented Wednesday, 23 May 2018 at 2:09pm

While this shows the nets inability to catch target species sharks, it doesn't really measure their ability to deter them away from shore does it?

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Wednesday, 23 May 2018 at 2:28pm

Been plenty of bull shark pings on the receivers , I haven't heard of any sightings/bumpings.

No whites, but they might be on their way north.

AndyM's picture
AndyM's picture
AndyM commented Wednesday, 23 May 2018 at 2:34pm

Sprout, with 600m of nets in 10km of coastline I'd be surprised if nets actually deterred sharks.
If I were a shark I'd be much more deterred seeing my mate hanging off a big hook.

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming commented Wednesday, 23 May 2018 at 3:28pm

You would actually think in theory nets could attract sharks, as wouldn't a struggling turtle or ray or whatever be an easy meal for a shark?

I think i have a crush on Debra Soh.

rus's picture
rus's picture
rus commented Wednesday, 23 May 2018 at 3:43pm

It's all the dead things in the nets that deters them

surfinado's picture
surfinado's picture
surfinado commented Wednesday, 23 May 2018 at 5:35pm

Does anyone know of published data on bycatch from the Gold Coast/QLD nets? Cheers

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Wednesday, 23 May 2018 at 5:57pm

You can find the NSW totals on the DPI website:

https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fishing/sharks/management/shark-meshing-bather-protection-program

QLD presumably on whatever their equivalent dept is.

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba commented Wednesday, 23 May 2018 at 5:46pm

Smart drum lines are a way better alternative to nets as has been proven with little to no by catch and not a threat to the migration of whales so get rid of the nets and install more drum lines.......but i just wonder if sharks will get used to seeing them and avoiding them over time.

simba

Fliplid's picture
Fliplid's picture
Fliplid commented Wednesday, 23 May 2018 at 6:14pm

Link to the Qld drumlines data. Interesting reading. I don't understand why they haven't been used instead of the nets for this trial

https://data.qld.gov.au/dataset/shark-control-program-shark-catch-statis...

Shatner'sBassoon's picture
Shatner'sBassoon's picture
Shatner'sBassoon commented Wednesday, 23 May 2018 at 11:23pm

Blessed be the fruit

rooftop's picture
rooftop's picture
rooftop commented Thursday, 24 May 2018 at 1:16am

Ah, I love the smell of data in the morning.

rablex's picture
rablex's picture
rablex commented Thursday, 24 May 2018 at 1:45am

Bruce Mackenzie wrote:

Data from a controversial two-stage trial of shark nets off the New South Wales north coast shows that 420 marine animals were caught

420 blaze it. suck on that all you hippie-bandwagoners that talked up nets and trashed drumlines 5 or so years ago. had to be 420.

pigdog's picture
pigdog's picture
pigdog commented Thursday, 24 May 2018 at 6:18pm

ha gold!
please dont quote me on this but i read an article by nick carrol maby 2 years ago and it mentioned how fishing trawler bycatch was much more than 420 baby:)

mowgli's picture
mowgli's picture
mowgli commented Friday, 25 May 2018 at 10:47am

hippy bandwagoners? you mean greenies?

fairly certain it's the nets the hippies are against the most...

“Life is a long lesson in humility.”

PaulG's picture
PaulG's picture
PaulG commented Thursday, 24 May 2018 at 8:25am

on the weekend at a mid north coast point wave a 6" shark came very close to my daughter (I have some drone photos) the following day one of the guys had to push it away from him - very scary stuff. I believe they are there all of the time but aren't interested in us. But id like to know if the smart buoy out the back could have a strobe activate if they are in the area (app doesn't work when I'm in the water) and dose the sharkbanzz and others work? Also we normally see dolphins in the area none around on the weekend (just saying)

mantown's picture
mantown's picture
mantown commented Friday, 25 May 2018 at 4:04pm

6 inch shark? Sounds gnarly!! She could have lost a finger!!

tango's picture
tango's picture
tango commented Thursday, 24 May 2018 at 9:07am

Having had a close encounter last year and shark tangled in my leggie, I fully sympathise with the issue and don't mean to trivialise it in any way. But 420 non-target animals for 11 target animals is absurdly unacceptable. I'd prefer to see scarce funding pumped into research that seeks to understand more about shark behaviour and environmental factors so that the cause might be addressed rather than the symptoms. It would be interesting to see the shark ecologists' views on the data and the way forward, ideally before it is subject to bureaucratic process.

BTW I used to work at Fisheries in the early 90s alongside the blokes who ran the the Sydney shark mesh net program - as I understand it, the overwhelming number of sharks caught entered the nets from the beach side, not the ocean side.

mowgli's picture
mowgli's picture
mowgli commented Friday, 25 May 2018 at 10:46am

"the overwhelming number of sharks caught entered the nets from the beach side, not the ocean side"

Yes I've heard this too. Me wonders if the whole "sharks only swim into a beach using specific pathways" is some outdated only semi-test hypothesis that - to the detriment of all that marine life - has just stuck around.

If you've ever seen aerial footage of sharks in inshore areas, it doesn't pass the sniff test IMO.

“Life is a long lesson in humility.”

MightyMing's picture
MightyMing's picture
MightyMing commented Friday, 25 May 2018 at 8:59am

Why dont people buy a freedom+ surf shark shield this is the only scientifically proven device out there, are they just too tight and want the government to pay for every thing?

terence's picture
terence's picture
terence commented Friday, 25 May 2018 at 1:55pm

I use the Rpela - (Surfsafe) - in my view an infinitely more refined product, and more portable. I have 4 boards and 2 interchangeable batteries between them, perhaps a placebo, but would not surf without it now. Also 1/2 the price.

PaulG's picture
PaulG's picture
PaulG commented Thursday, 24 May 2018 at 12:34pm

Thankyou Ming, just looked it up, might be good if I only had one board. also appears shark has to be close for it to work.

Dose any one know if sound has been used to repel sharks (maybe killer whale tones or Justin beiber)??

MightyMing's picture
MightyMing's picture
MightyMing commented Friday, 25 May 2018 at 8:30am

Hey Paul how u doing, i have one and yes if the shark comes in and is turned away, this is where common sense enters the situation. You have avoided an attack now get out of the water! Oh two more things, you put the decal antenna on multi boards and just swap the battery over if you have more than one board - this saves a lot of money.

quokka's picture
quokka's picture
quokka commented Thursday, 24 May 2018 at 2:40pm

You wold think that Justin Beiber has to be an effective deterrent (makes my ears bleed) but surprisingly not so, from UWA research: "*Loud underwater sounds (both artificial sounds and natural orca calls) were not effective at deterring small sharks in the laboratory and had only a limited deterrent effect in the wild."
http://www.news.uwa.edu.au/201506177707/international/shark-deterrent-re...
I just hope the WA govt looks at the NSW results ASAP and decides to take up their offer of lending smart drumlines for a trial. Agree that nets don't seem to be the answer.

MightyMing's picture
MightyMing's picture
MightyMing commented Friday, 25 May 2018 at 9:05am

Oops i thinks i may have repeated my comment a couple of times.

PaulG's picture
PaulG's picture
PaulG commented Thursday, 24 May 2018 at 4:06pm

Ming, Quokka, thanks lots of info out there hard to put it in perspective

quokka's picture
quokka's picture
quokka commented Thursday, 24 May 2018 at 4:20pm

Yeah there is Ming but it seems to be narrowing, i.e. smart drum lines seem the go and just announced in WA that the FREEDOM+ Surf by Ocean Guardian (Shark Shield) is likely to be added to the rebate program for deterrent devices...head on over to Why aren't WA surfers using the shark deterrent rebate? under Swellnet Dispatch to read more on this.

quokka's picture
quokka's picture
quokka commented Thursday, 24 May 2018 at 5:27pm

Meant to respond to you as well PaulG...

scoopmaster's picture
scoopmaster's picture
scoopmaster commented Thursday, 24 May 2018 at 4:09pm

Sounds like my beach fishing results. 420 stingrays released for every jewfish :(

MightyMing's picture
MightyMing's picture
MightyMing commented Friday, 25 May 2018 at 9:06am

Will do that Quokka and thanks for that, i personally love my ss i just feel better about having a surf with it!

quokka's picture
quokka's picture
quokka commented Thursday, 24 May 2018 at 5:29pm

Hey Ming, is the tailpad extra bulky on the SS Freedom+?

MightyMing's picture
MightyMing's picture
MightyMing commented Friday, 25 May 2018 at 8:18am

No Quokka its fine.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Thursday, 24 May 2018 at 5:36pm

They look to be double normal kicker height going by the pic of Tommy C holding one on there Site

shauntomson1's picture
shauntomson1's picture
shauntomson1 commented Saturday, 26 May 2018 at 2:18am

"The nets are really not working."
Maybe I missed something in the report on the effectiveness or not of the program - in the 5 months since the nets were installed how many people were attacked by sharks?

Norm de Ploom's picture
Norm de Ploom's picture
Norm de Ploom commented Saturday, 26 May 2018 at 8:03am

One item not mentioned, going by the DPI tagging data, is that GWS numbers caught were very thin over late 2016 to May 2017.
Numbers rose dramatically over June 2017 to October 2017, then fell off since, up to now.
A rise in tagged fish from now would support the notion they move to the mid-north coast during winter.
Ergo, the net trial coincided with the period they are down south.

sharklasers1's picture
sharklasers1's picture
sharklasers1 commented Saturday, 26 May 2018 at 9:51am

Appears to be a very biased report. No figures around the actual purpose of the solutions in place - number of lives taken/saved.

With the shark nets in place how many attacks/fatalities?

Seems to be a lot of unknowns and often the research focus is outside of the top priorty: protecting human lives. There appears to be a correlation between shark tagging and increased attacks as seen in the Ballina area circa 2014. Have heard reports that when 'research' began with SMART drum lines, this was when the attacks started occurring. Hypothesis is the fish would be injured when caught on drum lines and would then get sick, unable to catch typical prey and venture inshore to hit slower moving targets. A theory that sounds highly plausible.

Yet to see any data from the dpi around tagged sharks and attack correlation. It seems very suspicious that this is such an unknown area from the research.

Some interesting reads to get you started:
https://www.perthnow.com.au/news/wa/wa-shark-attacks-evidence-reveals-po...

Peter Stephenson's paper here:
https://www.aph.gov.au/DocumentStore.ashx?id=eadb2400-83d5-40f8-ac50-9a9...

Are SMART drum lines really the answer?

Worth asking questions and hopefully we can all work together on the main issue: mitigating the loss of human life (along with mitigation of by catch as a secondary priority). If you ARE concerned with bycatch as a top priority I hope you're not a pescatarian..

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Saturday, 26 May 2018 at 4:46pm

The shark tagging program began after the first spate of attacks in Byron/Ballina Sharklaser.

And the first tagging program wasn't smart drumlins but traditional tagging using boat that was using baited hooks after helicopter surveillance identified sharks.
Smart Drumlines weren't introduced until 2016, after another spate of attacks.

Since Smart Drumlins, no attacks and much fewer encounters, sightings.

I think your theory that smart drumlines or tagged sharks might increase attacks is completely wrong. All the evidence points to the opposite conclusion; that smart drumlines reduce attacks/encounters.
We'll see if that effect lasts.

quokka's picture
quokka's picture
quokka commented Monday, 28 May 2018 at 6:23pm

There's no way I consider Perth Now as being a credible source of info unfortunately Sharklaser...I put that website in the same boat as the now long defunkt WA paper The Daily News which it's only redeeming feature was the scantily clad, well endowed ladies on pg 3. The story run by Trevor Paddenburg that you linked to is based on a very flimsy premise IMO. My understanidng from the trial results in Nth NSW is that most GWS's caught and tagged didn't venture back into shore for some period of time (months) if at all...which seems to completely contradict the claims of Trev.

Norm de Ploom's picture
Norm de Ploom's picture
Norm de Ploom commented Monday, 28 May 2018 at 6:56pm

If there’s a sharp increase in receiver pings (mid/north coast) over the next 5 months or so, then the theory that tagged sharks stay away/further out will have little cachet. (Assuming the migration story is correct)
If there’s a large increase in previously untagged fish being caught, then we can probably safely say GWS numbers are not in any trouble.
If the DPI released more findings we might know a bit more.

truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher commented Thursday, 13 Dec 2018 at 12:40pm

[ ATTENTION-PUBLIC NOTICE ]...NO SHARKNETS

Qld Shark Nets have/are being removed.(Due to Zombie Cyclone Owen)
This link informs fully & also instructs shark Smart swimming/surfing practices
https://www.facebook.com/notes/fisheries-queensland/shark-protection-equ...

2/May/2018 Northern NSW removed Trial Sharknets North of Stockton/Newcastle.
https://www.northernstar.com.au/news/shark-net-trial-end-early/3403829/

Trial report (read here) recommends discontinuation of North NSW sharknets...
https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/829458/second-nor...

Repeating! There are currently NO SHARKNETS (North from Stockton/Newcastle).
Possibly the 1st time in recent history that East Coast has been without shark nets!
Note: Both Qld/NSW Govt's are quiet on any Summer holiday Shark net (Warning).
[Thank swellnet for issuing Public Notice].

Strange when all nets are removed all goes quiet! Surely Big News eitherway?
Note:[BEACH CLOSED] Boardrider's hazard fear is first step to ending whale netting.
Save the Boardrider save The Whale.

jacksprat's picture
jacksprat's picture
jacksprat commented Thursday, 13 Dec 2018 at 2:58pm

Seems like a lot a slaughter for a few people to play in the ocean.

onetimeonly

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba commented Thursday, 13 Dec 2018 at 6:36pm
Coaster's picture
Coaster's picture
Coaster commented Thursday, 13 Dec 2018 at 9:12pm

The size of the bycatch from shark nets is minuscule compared to the size caught by the commercial fishing industry.
https://oceana.org/sites/default/files/reports/Bycatch_Report_FINAL.pdf

mattmac's picture
mattmac's picture
mattmac commented Thursday, 13 Dec 2018 at 11:44pm

what about a more obvious solution-if you're that worried about sharks in the ocean don't go in the ocean :-)