Anger at controversial shark net decision: What you need to know

90 per cent of creatures caught in shark nets last season were not target species, so are they actually helping protect us?

Shark nets are going back in the water at 51 beaches across NSW this September, but are they making the ocean safer?

What you need to know

  • Shark nets do not fence off the entire beach. They’re actually just six metres high and 150 metres wide, so sharks are able to swim over or around them.

  • Critics of the program say the nets' biggest failing is they create a false sense of security.

  • The Minns Labor government argues its shark mitigation program is "effective".

Inset - a great white shark with its mouth open. Background - Bondi beach in winter as shark nets reinstalled.
Shark nets are being reinstalled across NSW beaches, but critics say they provide a false sense of security. Source: Getty/Yahoo

🗣️ What they said

Tara Moriarty, Minister for Agriculture: “The NSW Government will continue to listen to coastal councils and their communities to ensure that local preferences are balanced against effective, evidence-based shark mitigation for beachgoers.”

Anonymous former shark net contractor: “It’s disgraceful. I thought they were going to keep them out but apparently not. Other technologies are there, so we don’t need them.”

Emma Hurst, Animal Justice Party: "The decision to put shark nets back in the water is cowardly — it fails to consider science, and it fails to listen to the community.”

Lawrence Chlebeck, Humane Society International: “The government needs to dispel the myth that shark nets make swimmers safe. The shark nets are about as useful for public safety as the volleyball nets on the sand at Bondi.”

Shark nets by the numbers

  • Since their introduction in 1937, there has only been one fatality from an attack at a netted beach. But because they're only used at beaches with lifeguards, there's debate over which one is preventing loss of life.

  • In August, the NSW government data revealed of the 204 creatures caught during the 2022/2023 season, only 24 were target species.

  • As part of its shark mitigation program, NSW also uses more modern technologies including drones at 50 beaches, 305 SMART drumlines and 37 tagged shark listening stations.

Source: NSW DPIE
Source: NSW DPIE

🗓️ What happens next?

Minister Moriarty said the government will continue to “assess options for different strategies in future”. But this summer the nets will be used to “complement” the other technologies it employs.

While nets continue to be used, expect to see more opposition from groups including Sea Shepherd, Australian Marine Conservation Society, Humane Society International and Envoy Foundation.

Love Australia's weird and wonderful environment? Get our new weekly newsletter showcasing the week’s best stories.

Banner reads 'What on Earth' with 'Subscribe to our new weekly newsletter' and a collage of images of australian natural wildlife.
Click here to sign up to our newsletter.