The NSW government has ruled out replacing shark nets along Bate Bay beaches with smart drumlines, despite the lines being more effective at protecting beachgoers during a recent trial on the state’s North Coast.
Fifty-one beaches from Wollongong to Newcastle are netted between September 1 and April 30 each year, as part of the government’s shark meshing program.
The nets are sunk off the three Bate Bay beaches – North Cronulla, Elouera and Wanda – and will again be installed from next month.
Nets are also set off the Royal National Park beaches of Garie and Wattamolla.
The decision follows the release of new data that revealed drumlines caught more “target sharks” – white, bull and tiger – than nets during a combined trial of both mitigation measures at five North Coast beaches between November and May.
The results showed that while 145 animals were caught in nets during the trial, only two of them were “target sharks”.
Rays, turtles and dolphins were among the 143 “non-target animals” caught; 57 of which died.
In comparison, the drumlines hooked 32 animals; half of which were “target sharks” – nine whites, three bulls and four tigers. Each shark was tagged and released. Of the 16 other animals caught, only one, a marlin, died.
Despite the success of the drumlines, a spokeswoman for NSW Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair said: “The nets between Newcastle and Wollongong will not be removed.”
“The shark meshing program has been in place since the 1930s and continues to receive strong support from the wider community,” the spokeswoman said.
The North Coast trial – conducted off beaches at Lennox Head, Ballina and Evans Head – found there was significant support for drumlines, drones and aerial surveillance, but a decline in support for the shark nets.
The spokeswoman said no final decision had been made about replacing the North Coast shark nets, but the information would help shape future decisions.
“The Department of Primary Industries is continuing to consult coastal communities about shark mitigation measures following the smart drumline trials along the coast,” she said.
“That information, the community feedback from the North Coast net trials, and other data from the strategy will help guide the future of shark mitigation in NSW.”
Sharks tagged via the drumline program are tracked by a network of 21 listening stations dotted along the NSW coast between Merimbula and Tweed Heads.
“In two years, there have been more than 26,000 shark detections on these listening stations,” Mr Blair said.
The NSW shark-tagging program was now the largest in the world, he said, with 375 sharks being actively tracked by scientists.