Shark nets on the northern coast of New South Wales, Australia, have caught only one of the target sharks in the past two months, but continue to kill dolphins, turtles, and endangered species. In January and February, only one bull shark has been caught in the nets, while 55 other animals were either trapped or killed.
The nets have killed four hammerhead sharks, which are listed as a vulnerable species, an Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin, and a common dolphin. Other animals caught in the nets include a loggerhead turtle (released alive), and dozens of rays were either killed or trapped.
An earlier trial of the nets in 2016-2017 resulted in only 3% of the catches being the target shark, other catches included a critically endangered gray nurse shark, four dolphins, and 11 threatened turtles.
Marine scientist Jessica Morris, with Humane Society International, has said “How many more months of damning data will it take for government to finally realise this experiment is an utter failure, and shut it down? Non-lethal alternatives to nets are available and we cannot afford to keep killing harmless and protected species for the next 18 months or more.”
Niall Blair, the primary industries minister has said the government was trialing modifications to the nets, hopefully reducing the number of other species being trapped. “We are currently half way through a trial in which we are testing and trialling modifications to the nets to reduce the amount of bycatch; to terminate the trial at this stage will prevent informed decisions about the use of mesh nets for mitigating the risks of shark-human interactions. An independent community survey carried out before the first mesh net trial clearly indicated that Ballina Shire and Evans Head residents were more positive than negative towards the trial of nets and felt that it increased their feelings of safety for their families and the community.“