All Your Questions About NSW Shark Net Trials & Installation Answered

30 Oct 2016 4

COASTALWATCH | LATEST NEWS

The NSW State Government will begin the installation of nets in the Ballina region in coming weeks. To keep you up-to-date with all information coming from the Department of Primary Industries we've listed all the FAQs about the trial below. 

SEE ALSO: Nick Carrol On, Beyond The Panic, The Facts About Shark Nets

Why is the Government introducing shark nets on the NSW north coast? The Government has an obligation to do all it can to ensure public safety – balancing the benefits of its actions with any impacts on wildlife and the environment. It has made the decision following a spate of shark attacks on the north coast and calls from sections of the local community to introduce shark meshing nets. The Government believes shark nets are worth trialling - along with all possible measures to reduce the loss of life of non-target marine animals coming up against the nets. Coastal communities need to have some areas made as safe as possible from ocean predators. 

How many nets are proposed and what are the proposed locations? The number and location of shark mesh nets on the north coast is open for discussion with the community. A feedback survey is asking people to nominate up to three trial beaches. All beaches in the Ballina and Richmond Valley shires are potential sites. To have your say go online at http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/sharks by Sunday 6 November and make your comments. 

Where do the nets go? They will be set generally in line with how they are used in the Newcastle to Wollongong shark meshing area, but with possible modifications to suit local conditions. They are generally installed parallel to the beach near surf clubs and patrolled swimming areas. Shark nets currently used in NSW are 150 metres long by 6 metres deep, with a mesh size of 60cm. They are a ‘mid-water net’ set below the surface in about 10 to 12 metres of water, within 500 metres of the shore. 

When will the nets go in? Weather permitting, the nets will go in before the start of the Queensland school holidays, by 8 December. Public consultation is important and will be conducted before any nets go in. 

What evidence do we have that nets are effective in protecting people? There has been only one fatality at a netted beach between Newcastle and Wollongong in the last 70 years. The frequency of shark interactions with people dropped considerably after nets were installed around Sydney and in Queensland - compared to what it had been previously. Mesh netting programs of course don’t prevent all shark interactions because they are not full-beach barriers. 

How do shark nets work? They are passive fishing nets designed to catch large sharks by entangling them; to reduce the numbers of dangerous sharks aggregating near the netted beach; and above all, to reduce the likelihood of shark interactions. They do NOT create an enclosed area, or provide a barrier between beachgoers and sharks. 

What are our strategies to limit unintended impacts on bycatch? Nets will be fitted with whale alarms and dolphin pingers to deter marine mammals. While the Sydney nets are checked at least once every 72 hours, it is proposed that more frequent checking will be done for the North Coast trial. The exact regime will be informed by community feedback. It is also proposed to trial the use of SMART automatic alert devices so that a meshing contractor can be notified and respond quickly to release any trapped animals. 

Will the nets be monitored by DPI or contractors? Contractors will set and check the nets, with a trained DPI observer present on every trip. 

What are the latest statistics for bycatch in nets? The Shark Meshing (Bather Protection) Program 2014-15 Annual Performance Report indicates there were a total of 189 entanglements of marine animals on 51 nets during the 2014-15 meshing season, comprised of 44 with target sharks, and 145 with non-target marine life. It is important to note, however, that the number of non-target species caught in the nets can vary considerably year to year and the Far North Coast waters are more biologically diverse than those of the temperate waters further south with more abundant marine life. See the 2014-2015 Annual Performance Report.

How long can dolphins and turtles survive if they are caught? Deterrent devices will be used to deter dolphins from the immediate area of the net. However, if dolphins or green turtles are inadvertently caught, it is unlikely they would survive for more than 30 minutes. Loggerhead and Leatherback turtles are likely to be able to survive for considerably longer than this. 

Will the nets be removed during whale migration? The trial will start in December 2016 and run for six months. This period will avoid most of the whale migration time. 

Will drumlines be used as well as nets? DPI will trial running the nets together with SMART drumlines which allow captured sharks to be tagged, relocated and released. 

If the barriers could not withstand the sand movement and dynamic conditions at Lighthouse Beach and Lennox, how will the nets? The nets are lightweight gear are not firmly fixed to the seafloor in the same way that barriers are. They can be removed from the water if very rough conditions are forecast. 

How will DPI evaluate this trial - what is success? Two types of information will be used to evaluate the trial. First, how effective are the nets at catching target sharks with minimal impact on other marine animals. Second, how acceptable the approach is to the community in terms of reducing risk of shark bites. 

What happens to potentially dangerous sharks caught in the nets? Are they released alive? Yes, whenever safe and practical to do so. Potentially dangerous White, Bull and Tiger sharks will be relocated further out to sea before being released. 

How will DPI protect the local resident dolphin population? Nets will be fitted with the most sophisticated dolphin pingers available. However, even with the best available technology and regular checking, the nature of mesh nets means that some dolphins may be caught and killed. 

Is it true that 40% of sharks caught are on the beach side of the net? There are no available data on this for meshed beaches in NSW or Queensland. 

What happens after the 6 month trial? That will depend on the outcome of the trial and the community’s reaction to the trial. 

How will the net trial affect endangered species, such as the Grey Nurse Shark? It is possible that some Grey Nurse Sharks might be entangled during the course of the trial. These sharks generally have a relatively good survival rate in the Sydney meshing program and can usually be released alive. 

How are animals removed out of the nets? It depends on what has been caught and the extent to which they have become entangled. Sometimes, the net has to be cut away in order to release the captured animal. 

What consultation will DPI undertake before nets go in? DPI has established a mobile drop-in centre on the meshing trial. This stand will be at a number of North Coast locations from 29 October to late November – a schedule will be available at www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/sharks. DPI is also conducting an online survey at www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/sharks to gauge community views on the shark netting which closes on 6th November at 5pm. Key stakeholders will continue to be consulted and media interviews will be conducted to disseminate information. 

*BONUS Video Below, Terra Australias Shark Bite First Aid Video


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