Shark nets will be replaced by drones and smart drumlines to protect swimmers at the beach.

At last night’s Council meeting (Tuesday, 27 April) Liberal Councillor Kylie Ferguson successfully moved an amendment to discontinue support for shark nets on the Northern Beaches and instead consider alternative technologies.

The amendment overturned Council’s proposed response to the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) which are the agency responsible for the shark management strategy. The initial response from Council had proposed to support the continued use of shark nets. Cr Ferguson’s amendment was supported by speeches from the public gallery.

Malin Frick

Malin Frick

According to Malin Frick from Sea Shepherd, almost 90 percent of the animals caught in nets last year were non-target species such as dolphins and turtles.

“Shark nets don’t go headland to headland. Sharks can swim over, under and around the nets. They are a false sense of security. Last year in NSW a total of 480 animals were caught in the nets. Of these, 430 were non-target animals that includes endangered species,” said Ms Frick.

Former world champion surfer Layne Beachley gave an impassioned plea for Councillors to remove shark nets from the Northern Beaches.

Layne Beachley

Layne Beachley

“I strongly oppose the use of shark nets on all beaches, they are archaic technology, indiscriminate killers of helpless, vulnerable and endangered marine life. They have proven to be entirely deficient in protection. The majority of sharks and marine life for that matter have been caught on the beach side on their way out to sea, posing no threat to ocean lovers.

“The 2017 senate enquiry found these nets do not make any impact on human safety, they negatively impact marine ecosystem and provide beachgoers with a false sense of security. Nets act as a form of chumming, a buffet of dead animals. They kill marine life and attract bigger predators to feed on their carcasses.

“I’m yet to encounter a shark let alone feel threatened by one. We have a much greater chance of dying from a bee sting than a shark attack yet we don’t go out culling bees. That’s perhaps because we understand the importance of the role they play,” said Ms Beachley.

Kylie Ferguson

Kylie Ferguson

Cr Ferguson said that shark nets were an outdated technology, having been in use for almost a century. She was granted an extension of time to speak as she detailed the pros and cons of alternatives to nets and described the cost to marine life.

“There was a study of shark nets from September 2016 to April 2020. 2,399 animals were caught. Only 171 were sharks. Total animals killed 1,320, over 55 percent of the total catch.

“In 2020 the Humane Society polled 1,225 Northern Beaches residents and found that 70 percent of residents support removing shark nets due to their harm to marine wildlife. 80 percent would like to see more drone surveillance and 73 percent support replacing shark nets with smart drumlines. So councillors lets join Randwick, Waverly, Wollongong and hopefully Newcastle tonight to hopefully get rid of shark nets and protecting our marine wildlife. They are dying, it’s a tragedy,” said Cr Ferguson.

Councillors Candy Bingham, David Walton and Ian White spoke in favour of Cr Ferguson’s amendment, which was then passed by an unanimous vote. The report will now be sent to DPI saying shark nets are ‘not supported’ and ‘low preference’. Smart drumlines and drones will be noted as the preferred options of shark management instead.

Ocean Guardian, a Northern Beaches business based at Warriewood, has been working on a beach-based version of its shark repellent technology, which has been successfully trialled in South Africa.

Living Ocean recently produced a video (below) that showed a pod of dolphins at Palm Beach steering whales away from shark nets at the beach.

Images: Envato, DPI
Video: Living Ocean