Shark nets, an impossible promise and an outdated approach

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2023-02-03 3:03 by Envoy: Shark Cull

As the 25 March 2023 New South Wales State election approaches, the shark net debate bubbles away in the background, as it has done since the NSW shark netting program commenced in 1937. In contrast, nearly ten years ago, the Government of Western Australia abandoned an attempt to introduce shark nets due to a lack of evidence and strong community opposition, as have other countries.

The Inquiry into Management of Sharks in New South Wales Waters; the Commonwealth Senate Inquiry into the Efficacy and Regulation of Shark Mitigation and Deterrent Measures; and the Great Barrier Reef Federal Court case all found that shark culling does not improve swimmer safety and endorsed the use of non-lethal alternatives.

 from the Australian Museum states that:

"In its attempt to guarantee the impossible [human freedom from shark bites] the Government is paying a very high environmental price, and without public debate. How much time must pass, and how many more sharks and other harmless animals must be killed, before the meshing is gradually but steadily removed?"

So why are shark nets still in use in NSW?

Why does the government of the day ignore the ethical problems with the netting program?

Why does the government minimise public opposition to shark nets?

More significantly, why does the government brush over the fact that there is no evidence to support shark nets improve swimmer safety?

While the NSW Government has started introducing some modern strategies, Minister for Agriculture Dugald Saunders, responsible for the Shark Meshing Program, says there is no plan to end the program, which has approximately 90% bycatch, including endangered and protected animals.

Any claim the government makes that shark nets have reduced shark bites and fatalities is an absolute insult to the lifesavers and first responders who save lives. It conflates correlation with causation. Shark nets have not reduced shark bites since 1937. However, fatalities have declined due to improved first response speed, knowledge and techniques, not shark nets. Shark nets don't tie tourniquets or provide CPR; Surf Life Savers and first responders do.

So why does the NSW Government defend its shark culling program when science does not? Are urban holding back progress on the shark net debate, or have decades of political power play gone wrong and backed the government of the day into a corner?

Further reading and references

, James Griffin is being held to account by scientists for his inaction on failed shark net program

The Sunday Project: , harmless creatures slaughtered

The behind Shark Nets in New South Wales, Australia

: What could and should we be doing?

: 3 things you can do in 3 minutes to end the slaughter...

: How many more sharks and other harmless animals must be killed before meshing is removed? by Dr John Paxton

, Australian Museum

, Envoy: Shark Cull

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