Shark meshing is a “key threatening process” that Minns Government needs to stop


How can the NSW Government continue the shark meshing program when it is known to be a threat to biodiversity and sustainability?

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The Community Environment Network (CEN) is urging the NSW Government not to award any tenders for the 2023/2024 shark meshing program in NSW waters and to announce its intention to discontinue the program, which it described as “archaic and ineffective”.

“Shark meshing injures and kills more threatened and endangered species than it does the three types of sharks it is supposed to keep away from swimmers,” said CEN Chair, Mr Gary Chestnut. “And that fact comes from data gathered by the NSW Department of Primary Industries (Fisheries).

“The substantial and unjustifiable amount of bycatch killed or injured over many years means the shark meshing program is itself listed as a key threatening process in both the NSW Fisheries Management Act 1994 and the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016,” Mr Chestnut said.

“How can the NSW Government continue the shark meshing program when it is known to be a threat to biodiversity and sustainability?

“The community knows the ‘protection’ offered by the meshing is far from shark proof and it has been shocked by the NSW DPI’s call for tenders for shark meshing for the 2023-24 season in the seven LGAs from Newcastle to Wollongong,” he said.

“This call for tenders, which closed on 24 July, occurred despite strong community opposition to shark meshing in the winter of 2022 and the extensive and ongoing rollout of other shark mitigation strategies.

“We believe the NSW Government must stop the shark meshing program, and we have written to the Minister for Agriculture (Fisheries), The Hon Tara Moriarty MLC, along with all NSW parliamentarians who represent the Central Coast and Lake Macquarie, to urge them to stop the shark meshing program.

CEN said it has asked Minister Moriarty and local MPs to consider the following stark statistics and abandon this ecologically harmful and ineffectual program:

1. In the most recent reporting period (2021-22) the program captured only 28 White Sharks representing 7.4% of total catches. The White Shark is now listed as vulnerable/endangered.

2. Near double that number (42) of non-target species were caught in the same period, including 19 Green Turtles, 16 Leatherback Turtles, 6 Grey Nurse Sharks and 1 Loggerhead Turtle – all of whom are endangered/vulnerable.

3. The trigger point for minimising impact on non-target and threatened species was tripped in 2021-22 (and in some preceding years) for both Green and Leatherback Turtles.

“We have urged Minister Moriarty to consider the availability of new methods to protect beachgoers, which trap and kill substantially less bycatch than the now outdated and ecologically dangerous shark meshing.

“CEN would like to think the call for tenders was nothing more than a system glitch and that the NSW Government will immediately discontinue the shark meshing program on NSW beaches.”

The shark meshing program has been used in NSW since 1937 and was designed at that time to protect beachgoers from predatory sharks including White, Tiger and Bull Sharks during peak swimming season.

In its present form, external contractors set large-mesh nets at the beginning of the season and check nets every three days for entangled animals, including the three target sharks but also significant amounts of bycatch – a range of other shark species, marine mammals, and marine turtles. Entangled animals are often deceased, and their carcasses are dumped offshore.

The most recent data to be released about bycatch and the effectiveness of shark mesh in NSW is now a year old (to the day).

In July 2022, the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) reported that threatened marine turtles had been killed by shark nets in the 2021-22 season at a rate of one turtle every 12 days.

“Additionally, 14 Critically Endangered grey nurse sharks were caught, with five found dead and nine released, though there is no guarantee of survival for this fragile species. The death of just one grey nurse is a serious blow to the population,” the AMCS reported at the time.

“A staggering 86% of marine animals caught in NSW shark nets during the 2021-2022 season were non-target species such as turtles, rays and smaller sharks. Though shocking, these figures tell the same tragic story every year when the Shark Meshing Programs catch data is revealed, and its why coastal councils and residents want them gone.

“NSW’s Shark Meshing Program, currently consisting of 51 shark nets spanning from Newcastle to Wollongong deployed between 1 September and 30 April each year, has hardly been updated during its operation despite significant technological and scientific advancements.

“Conservation groups, Humane Society International Australia (‘HSI’) and the Australian Marine Conservation Society (‘AMCS’), say it is high time the shark meshing program in NSW was ended to make way for newer technologies that both improve swimmer safety and significantly reduce environmental impacts.

“The  Shark Meshing (Bather Protection) Program 2021/22 Annual Performance Report, …by NSW DPI, shows that of 376 animals caught, only 13.5% (51) were actually target species. Of the 376 animals caught in the nets, 62% (234) were killed. Shockingly, 203 (54%) of the animals caught during 2021-2022 were threatened or protected species, and 77% (156) of these animals were killed.”

All eight NSW local councils with shark nets on their ocean beaches officially revoked support for the devices to make way for a modernised approach that will improve swimmer safety and significantly reduce environmental impacts.

“Non-lethal solutions including drone surveillance, personal shark deterrents, and accessible education programs, are not only more technologically advanced but are also designed with nearly a century of advancements in understanding shark behaviour in mind.

“HSI and AMCS are hoping the NSW DPI will design a modern bather protection program relying on these more effective and sophisticated technologies and consign the nets to history.

Lawrence Chlebeck, marine biologist for Humane Society International Australia, said, “Each year, we are heartbroken to see so many more marine animals lose their lives, all for the false sense of security provided by shark nets. This season saw the loss of 21 more turtles, the highest amount in any season since catch data has been released and taking the total in that time to over 100. The indiscriminate deaths that occur as a result of the outdated Shark Meshing Program in NSW must end.

“The technology is nearly 100 years old, we would never accept safety technology that old in any other facet of our lives, why should ocean safety be any different? It is in everyone’s best interest that the nets are done away with.”

Dr Leonardo Guida, shark scientist with AMCS, said, “The local communities want their beach safety standards modernised and the terrible cost to wildlife significantly reduced, if not eliminated altogether. Public sentiment and the science are in alignment—come   September the NSW Government should keep the nets out and the drones up.

The 2022-23 annual performance report has not been released. The Point has asked DPI the expected release date.


If you live in one of the eight LGA’s between Newcastle and Wollongong and you are opposed to the continuation of shark meshing, write to your local NSW member of parliament.

If you’d like to also tell the Minister what you think, visit this page.

Learn more about the AMCS

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