Responses to shark bite incidents
People engaging in various types of water-based activities have been
involved in shark incidents, including surfers, divers, swimmers and
spearfishers. Over many decades, various measures have been put in place to
help protect beachgoers from the risk of encountering a dangerous shark. As
visiting the beach and beach culture forms an important part of the way of life
for many Australians and is a drawcard for domestic and international tourism, spikes
in shark encounters can lead to calls for governments to introduce further
measures to protect public safety.
In responding to the risk that people undertaking recreational
ocean-based activities may encounter a dangerous shark, measures that are
non-lethal to sharks are widely used. In some states, these non-lethal measures
are supplemented by devices that are designed to be lethal to sharks are also
deployed. This chapter provides an overview of the non-lethal and lethal
measures used in Australia.
Across Australia, several types of public safety measures and programs
used are non-lethal to sharks. State governments and not-for-profit
organisations generally manage these measures.
Based on information published by various state governments, shark
mitigation and deterrence techniques in Australia involve a range of detection,
deterrent and public awareness measures, including:
lifesavers, sirens at beaches and equipment for surf lifesaving
clubs, such as jet skis to chase sharks away and to help facilitate beach
surveillance, such as beach patrols, fixed surveillance towers
and aerial surveillance;
tagging and tracking of sharks, including real time tracking data
of tagged sharks that can enable response agencies to close beaches; and
community awareness strategies, including websites, social media
and mobile apps that disseminate shark alerts.
In addition to the measures listed above, a variety of new and emerging
shark deterrent and mitigation measures are in use or under development. Evidence
about the long-established measures are discussed in the following paragraphs;
the new and emerging technologies are discussed in Chapter 6.
One of the principal non-lethal measures for keeping the public safe
from sharks highlighted by several submitters and witnesses were the volunteer
and local government operated surf lifesaving services. Surf Life Saving NSW
and Australian Lifeguard Service NSW submitted that:
The simplest and most effective safety measure that members
of the general public can follow is to only swim at patrolled beaches and swim
between the red and yellow flags. This is the best place to swim because
lifesavers and lifeguards are able to monitor all risks to maximise the safety
A representative of Surf Life Saving Western Australia informed the
committee that, in a two-year period, their lifesavers issued 258 direct shark
warnings to beach users, which resulted in over 4,600 individuals being warned
to leave the water. Overall, once information from beach patrols, aerial
surveillance, shark tags and public sightings are taken into account, Western
Australian lifesavers 'have cleared tens of thousands of beach users where
there was an imminent threat in the water'. Evidence given to the committee indicates
that the only recent instance of a death at a patrolled beach in Western Australia
occurred early in the morning when lifeguards were arriving at the beach and
Given the central role of surf lifesaving in public safety at patrolled
beaches, it is instructive to examine the procedures in place for
responding to shark sightings and human–shark incidents. Surf Life Saving
Australia explained that in most states, the process that is followed at a
patrolled beach after a shark is sighted involves:
...the closing of a beach for a period of time with Surf Life
Saving assets (helicopters, rescue craft, personnel) allocated to the area to
ensure risk is minimised to the community. The water is cleared and surf
lifesavers and lifeguards will monitor the area and liaise with Police as
Surf Life Saving Queensland explained that its procedures require surf
lifesavers to close the beach for 'at least 60 minutes after a confirmed shark
sighting, or until the threat has otherwise subsided'.
The committee was advised that, in New South Wales, the process varies
depending on which organisation is overseeing the beach. Mr Andy Kent from
Surf Life Saving NSW explained that:
council lifeguards will close the beach they monitor in response
to any shark sighting for one hour; and
for beaches patrolled by Surf Life Saving NSW, a risk management
approach is used that takes into account where the shark was spotted, the type
of shark and who reported it.
Surf Life Saving NSW and Australian Lifeguard Service NSW advised that, at some
patrolled beaches, shark alarms can be sounded to direct people to leave the
water when a shark is detected.
In addition, they advised that as a result of funding provided by the New South
Wales Department of Primary Industries (DPI), Surf Life Saving NSW 'was able to
purchase additional shark alarms in priority areas'. Previous funding also
enabled Surf Life Saving NSW to ensure every surf lifesaving club in the state
was provided with 'a loud hailer and water resistant binoculars'.
In Western Australia, the committee was informed that observation
platforms are being considered 'to give lifesavers a more elevated position
from which to do their surveillance'. 
At a club level, additional measures can be taken if required. The
Ballina Lighthouse & Lismore Surf Lifesaving Club informed the committee
that, following the shark bites in 2015 and 2016, 'the Club conducted a
detailed risk assessment of our water activities and introduced a series of new
protocols into our beach operations'. In addition to the standard
operating procedures developed by Surf Life Saving NSW, the Club:
undertakes a 'detailed risk assessment of the beach conditions
prior to opening of the beach', which examines water clarity, bird activity and
stations a 'patrol member on the adjacent headland with radios
and binoculars to gain an improved visual perspective of the water';
has relocated the water-based activities of junior members to an
enclosed portion of the Richmond River estuary; and
has increased the use of watercraft prior to opening the beach
and when the beach is open.
The essential work undertaken by surf lifesaving clubs across the
country was acknowledged in other submissions. For example, in their joint
Dr Daniel Bucher and Professor Peter Harrison stated that a surf lifesaving
patrolled beach is a measure that, despite being 'often overlooked', has
'resulted in zero fatalities over an extended period of time'. They added that
patrolled beaches have another advantage for public safety generally in that
they help prevent drownings.
Despite the long history of successful surf lifesaving activities,
however, the resources available for these activities are limited and are
dependent on the efforts of volunteers. In particular, there appears to be an
expectation gap between the public's understanding of the role of volunteer
surf lifesaving organisations and the authority and resources available to
those clubs. Mr Andy Kent, Lifesaving Manager,
Surf Life Saving NSW, explained:
The biggest cost we have is volunteer time. When an attack
occurs or an encounter occurs at a beach...Surf Life Saving, because of either
the public's expectation or the media's expectation, the public and the media
think we are in charge—which is probably a success of our brand and the role we
do—but in actual fact we know we are not. So when we get tasked to an
incident—the latest attack was, I think, in Forster, at a very remote beach—the
expectation is that Surf Life Saving will respond and man the beaches and put
up signs everywhere. The reality is that we do not have the resources to do
Members of the public can also challenge efforts by surf lifesaving
organisations to close beaches temporarily in response to shark sightings.
Mr Chris Peck from Surf Life Saving Western Australia advised that 'an
element of frustration' is evident when beaches are closed due to shark
sightings. Mr Peck stated:
We have seen people come down and want to participate in
events and they are unable to or been halfway through an event and
participation has had to stop. People become very frustrated and become very
angry by that.
If I look at the Clever Buoy example at City Beach where that trial was
and the number of beach closures, there was a significant amount of angst from
the people and that anger was directed at the lifesavers, who were simply
delivering the protocols and closing the beach. In that sense, that is
The focus of surf lifesaving efforts is also limited to 'between the
flags'. Mr Dale Carr, who has survived a shark bite, noted that when
assessing conditions, surfers can be drawn outside the patrolled areas. He explained
this decision by depicting a surfer asking themselves the following question:
Where am I going to go for a surf? Am I going to surf between
the flags or am I going to surf where it's really cracking hot?
The committee received evidence about aerial patrols of the coastline
conducted by fixed wing aircraft and helicopters. It was advised that four
aerial patrols dedicated to bather protection currently operate in Australia.
The Government of South Australia advised that both fixed wing and
rotary wing patrols are used in its jurisdiction. The government's submission,
which was provided in March 2017, noted that in 2016–17 fixed wing aircraft are
expected to have conducted 1060 hours of regular coastal surveillance in two
areas: from the northern Adelaide suburbs to Rapid Bay; and from Victor Harbor
to the mouth of the Murray River. The aircrafts use at least three personnel,
allowing two dedicated observers 'to concentrate on maintaining watch and
managing/communicating any sightings'.
The helicopter patrols are limited to supporting open water aquatic
events in the Adelaide metropolitan beaches and the south coast. These patrols
are conducted by the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter (as part of an
arrangement with Surf Life Saving SA). Although these patrols are limited
in number (18 patrols were undertaken in 2016–17), the government noted
that this approach has the additional advantage in that 'the helicopter can be
used to actively drive large sharks away from the shore to reduce the immediate
risk of interactions with members of the public'.
The committee also received evidence from the Australian Aerial Patrol,
which was formed in 1957. The registered charity patrols part of the New South
Wales south coast from southern Sydney to Mollymook.
Australian Aerial Patrol explained that when a shark is spotted and logged,
if swimmers or surfers are nearby a siren and loudspeaker on the aircraft is
used to alert them. For beaches with professional or volunteer lifeguards, the
spotting can be reported to these lifeguards for further action. In response to
sightings of large sharks, Mr Duncan Leadbitter, Director, Australian
Aerial Patrol, added that the aircraft conduct orbits to deter the shark until
it has swum away or people have left the water.
Mr Leadbitter added that the police have been contacted when people do
not leave the water and it is considered a shark presents a significant risk.
He told the committee:
On one occasion when people would not get out of the water we
called the Federal Police, because it was in Jervis Bay waters, to get somebody
down because there were small children with a large shark nearby. That is
unusual but shark attacks are not usual anyway.
An advantage of aerial patrols is that they can cover unpatrolled
beaches; for example, Mr Leadbitter observed that 'south of Kiama there are
very few patrolled beaches...we very commonly see people surfing or swimming in
areas which are a long, long way from the patrolled areas'. Nonetheless, as
noted above, aerial patrols can still support public safety efforts at patrolled
beaches. Mr Leadbitter stated that the good record of no fatalities between the
flags at patrolled beaches 'is why we work in tandem with the beach safety
Individuals provided evidence in support of aerial surveillance. In
relation to aerial surveillance activities conducted in other parts of New
South Wales, Mr John Heaton commented:
...I can tell you there is nothing more reassuring as seeing a
helicopter fly over where you are surfing and not stop & hover above you. I
was involved in a surf break evacuation in Dec 2016 when the helicopter hovered
above us and then gave the alarm of a shark very close by.
Noting the low statistical risk of a shark incident, Mr Leadbitter noted
that aerial patrols are 'a psychological thing for people'. He explained:
People want to feel safe at the beach, and they equate the
aerial patrol with somebody looking after them. The risk of shark attack is
virtually negligible. You really need to get people over the fear. They like to
see the planes. It is very simple.
However, the committee also received evidence arguing that the
effectiveness of aerial beach patrols is limited. The Queensland Department of
Agriculture and Fisheries referred to an assessment of New South Wales aerial
patrols, which 'confirmed that sighting sharks is very difficult from the air',
with an overall sighting rate of 17 per cent. The department noted that
this 'suggests sharks sighted from aircraft observers can be missed if the
water depth is too deep or turbid'. In addition, species of sharks that are
known to be potentially dangerous to humans (white, tiger and bull sharks) 'may
be near the surf break before being detectable aerially'.
Similarly, Dr Christopher Neff submitted that the use of aerial
surveillance depends on weather conditions, and that 'cloud cover, white caps,
sun glare, the type of shark, position of the shark, and size of shark can all
Overall, the committee heard divergent views on the utility and future
of aerial patrols. Australian Aerial Patrol argued that aerial patrols 'are no
less effective at protecting beach goers than other established methods', and
called for the Australian Government to investigate the creation of aerial
patrols elsewhere in Australia.
However, Associate Professor Daryl McPhee expressed the view that '[t]he
traditional approach of using people in planes and helicopters to spot sharks
is outdated, and will more than likely be replaced with other technologies such
Stakeholder views on the potential for unmanned aerial vehicles to be
widely used for shark spotting are discussed in Chapter 6.
There are many techniques used to convey information to the public about
the risks presented by sharks. This section briefly discusses some of the
mechanisms used. Additional proposals to raise awareness and improve the
public's understanding of how to keep safe are discussed in Chapters 6 and 7.
One of the most visible methods is the use of signs at beaches and other
waterways to warn about the risk of sharks. For example, temporary signs can be
used when a beach is closed because of a shark sighting or to warn of recent
Public information campaigns have been developed to inform the public
about the risk associated with sharks. For example, Surf Life Saving NSW and
Australian Lifeguard Service NSW advised that, in 2015, DPI initiated a
state-wide information campaign known as 'SmarkSmart'. The campaign, which
was supported by Surf Life Saving NSW, aimed to 'help the general public be
aware of how they can minimize the risk of being in waters where sharks may be
present'. Information containing safety tips and advice was distributed to surf
lifesaving clubs and coastal accommodation providers in northern New South
Separately to the SharkSmart program, Surf Life Saving NSW advised that
it has introduced a coastal accommodation network e-newsletter that includes
'surf safety resources and information on safety signs so guests are
"beach ready" and know what the different warning signs mean'. Some
editions of the newsletter have also contained 'shark management stories'
intended to promote awareness.
Websites and social media apps are also used. Surf Life Saving NSW and
Australian Lifeguard Service NSW highlighted the Beachsafe website
(www.beachsafe.org.au). This website is managed by Surf Life Saving Australia
and includes current information and conditions for every Australian beach.
Surf Life Saving NSW added:
There is information available on the website in 30 languages
and the website can direct swimmers to the nearest patrolled beach. Visitors to
the website can view fact sheets on rips, bluebottles and other hazards in
different languages. Visitors can also download the Beachsafe App on their smartphones,
which provides access to patrol locations and hours; and real-time weather and
surf conditions, anywhere along the coast.
As part of the New South Wales SmarkSmart campaign, a SharkSmart mobile
app was developed and released. The app provides information and resources to
help reduce the risk of shark encounters. Since March 2016, the app has provided
users with real-time alerts if a shark tagged with a tracking device (this is
discussed in Chapter 6) is near a listening station or if a shark incident
recently occurred in the area.
This information is also distributed via Twitter. The SmarkSmart website/app is
recognised by Surf Life Saving New South Wales as a source of reliable
information about shark sightings.
In Western Australia, the state government operates a SharkSmart public
education website (www.sharksmart.com.au). In addition to information to help
members of the public to minimise the risk of encountering a shark, the website
provides details on shark sightings, including tagged sharks detected by
listening stations, sharks spotted by the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter
Service and shark sightings reported by members of the public. Surf Lifesaving
Western Australia also distributes information about shark sightings via
Twitter; its account has over 46,000 followers. Mr Chris Peck from Surf Life
Saving Western Australia described the Twitter account as being 'critical...for
locations where patrols or other initiatives are infrequent or not present at
Some of the positive and negative issues regarding the use of social
media to distribute information about sharks spotted were discussed in Chapter
Much of the evidence received by the committee on government responses
to shark incidents focused on the lethal measures used in Queensland and New
South Wales for decades, as well as the measures more recently used in Western
This section commences this report's examination of lethal shark control
measures by providing background information on:
the different measures used and how they work;
the specific lethal shark control programs used or trialled by
various state governments; and
the catch rates and bycatch associated with the use of lethal
The effectiveness of the lethal shark control measures used in Australia
is an issue that attracted significant comment and, accordingly, is discussed
in a dedicated chapter (Chapter 4).
Background on lethal measures
currently in use
The two lethal shark measures examined in detail during this inquiry are
shark nets (also referred to as shark meshing) and drum lines.
Shark nets designed to entangle large sharks have been used in Australia
for decades. The general goal of nets is to 'reduce the number of potentially
dangerous sharks in particular areas rather than [to] create an impenetrable
barrier against shark attack'. That is, the nets do not create an enclosed area
that separates bathers from sharks. Rather, the nets are designed 'to catch
"resident sharks" and sharks that move through an area while feeding
on bait fish'.
The nets feature acoustic warning devices intended to alert dolphins and
In New South Wales, sunk nets are set within 500 metres of the shore at
51 beaches between 1 September and 30 April each year.
The following extract of a 2009 report provides additional detail about how the
nets are set:
The nets are bottom-set on bare sand and held in position
using sand anchors weighing between 27 and 30 kg. Nets are required to be set
parallel to the beach in waters 10 to 12 m deep (i.e. about 4–6 m below the
surface), which generally corresponds to a distance of within 500 m of the
beach. This configuration for a net is referred to as a 'set'...although two nets
can be set simultaneously to constitute two sets for that beach. The location
of a set is determined by the prevailing and forecast wind, seas and currents,
but is usually adjacent to the surf clubs and patrolled swimming areas.
A depiction of a net in operation under the New South Wales north coast
trial is at Figure 3.1. In Queensland, the nets are surface-set.
An illustration of how shark nets are deployed, based on the Queensland
arrangements, is at Figure 3.2.
Figure 3.1: How shark nets operate under the
New South Wales North Coast trial
DPI, 'Shark nets for the NSW North Coast', www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/681953/20161207-Shark-Trial-Fact-Sheet-.pdf
(accessed 9 February 2017).
3.2: How shark nets operate under the Queensland Shark Control Program
Source: Queensland Department
of Agriculture and Fisheries, Submission 32, p. 9.
The nets incur damage during the meshing season. For example, the
2015–16 performance report on the New South Wales program stated that a net was
reported missing after a storm event, some nets were believed to be damaged by
anchors or entangled after an interaction with a vessel, and others were
vandalised. Other damage was also reported, such as nets that were slashed or
instances were lines were cut, however, reasons for the damage were not given.
Drum lines use baited hooks to capture actively feeding sharks. The hook
is suspended from a plastic float that is anchored to the seabed.
Figure 3.3 provides an illustration of how a drum line is set.
3.3: Use of drum lines under the Queensland Shark Control Program
Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Submission 32, p.
Under the Western Australian drum line program, which did not proceed
beyond the trial period, the following actions would be taken in response to
animals captured by the drum line:
White, tiger or bull sharks 300 cm Total Length...or greater
captured on these drum lines will be destroyed by the contractor using a
firearm. Any other captured animals that are not considered to be in a
condition to survive will also be destroyed. Deceased sharks (whether destroyed
or killed by their capture) will be fitted with uniquely-identified disposal
tags and removed to a specified distance offshore and discarded or, where
practical, retained for scientific study.
Captured animals that are considered to have a chance of
survival will be released as swiftly and carefully as possible after measurement
and other basic data are recorded.
Drum lines that are not intended to kill sharks, but to alert a response
team, are in use in New South Wales. These are known as Shark
Management Alert in Real Time (SMART) drum lines and are discussed as a new
and emerging measure in Chapter 6.
Specific state government shark
The following paragraphs outline state government programs in place that
involve lethal measures for reducing the risk of shark encounters.
New South Wales
A shark meshing program was introduced in New South Wales in 1937.
At present, 51 ocean beaches from Wollongong to Newcastle are netted
between 1 September and 30 April each year using sunk nets fitted with
acoustic warning devices to alert dolphins and whales.
As noted above, the New South Wales Government also uses SMART drum lines,
which are discussed in the section on new and emerging technologies in Chapter
In addition to the long-established measures in place in some parts of
New South Wales, in recent years the state government has responded to a
spike in shark incidents, including fatalities, with an overarching shark management
strategy and trials of both new technologies and lethal measures in other
The relevant New South Wales minister has described the spike in shark
encounters as follows:
...since 1 January 2014 there have been 41 interactions with
sharks in NSW waters. Of these, 27 were unprovoked , with three resulting in
fatalities (one surfer, two ocean swimmers), the most of which occurred in
February 2015 in Ballina on the NSW North Coast. Of the remaining 24 interactions,
six resulted in serious injuries, 11 in minor injuries and seven with no
injuries...Of those 27 unprovoked shark interactions, 14 occurred on the Far
North Coast, five in the Mid North Coast, two in the Hunter, one each in the
Central Coast, Sydney, and Illawarra and three on the South Coast.
In October 2015, the New South Wales Government released the NSW
Shark Management Strategy. The Strategy has three elements: surveillance, detection
and deterrence; science and research; and education and community awareness.
In total, $16 million was allocated to trials of new technologies, aerial and
coastal surveillance, additional research including an expansion of a shark
tagging program, and programs intended to improve community education about
In response to the spike in shark encounters on the New South Wales
north coast, in October 2016 the New South Wales Government announced that
it would seek to trial shark meshing on the north coast. On 10 November 2016,
the New South Wales Government applied to exempt the north coast shark meshing
trial from the requirement to undergo assessment under the Environment
Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
The Minister for the Environment and Energy, the Hon Josh Frydenberg MP,
provided an exemption under section 158 of the EPBC Act on 16 November 2016 for
a 12‑month trial (with mesh nets allowed to operate for up to six months
during this period).
In September 2017, the New South Wales Government announced that it
intended to conduct a second shark net trial for the north coast as further
data was required 'in order to make a long-term decision on the future of the
On 26 October 2017, the Minister for the Environment and Energy granted a
further exemption under section 158 of the EPBC Act for the New South Wales
Government to conduct shark net trials over two years from 1 November 2017.
The use of section 158 exemption for lethal shark control programs is
examined in detail in Chapter 5.
Queensland has maintained a shark control program since 1962. The
current program uses nets and baited drum lines to protect 85 beaches in the
state. The purpose of the program is 'to reduce the possibility of shark
attacks on humans in coastal waters of the state adjacent to popular coastal
beaches used for bathing'.
The Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries submitted that the combination
of apparatus used accounts for drum lines being effective at catching tiger
sharks, while nets are more effective for catching bull sharks.
The number of sharks caught under the shark control program between 2010
and 2016 is at Table 3.1. Most sharks are killed; for example, of the 531
sharks caught in 2016, government statistics indicate that only 24 were
Further information about catch rates and bycatch is provided in the next chapter.
3.1: Queensland shark control program catch statistics, 2010 to 2016
Source: Queensland Department
of Agriculture and Fisheries, 'Queensland shark control program catch
statistics 2001–December 2016' https://data.qld.gov.au/dataset/shark-control-program-shark-catch-statistics/resource/5c6be990-3938-4125-8cca-dac0cd734263
(accessed 30 January 2017).
The Western Australian Government has had a shark hazard mitigation
strategy in place since 2008. The strategy commenced with aerial and beach
patrols, with funding subsequently provided for 'research, shark tagging and
tracking, an imminent threat policy to fish for a shark, a beach enclosure
trial, and development of a Beachsafe app'.
In December 2013, the Western Australian Government announced that
baited drum lines would be set at eight locations in the state. The drum lines
were designed to catch large sharks. Sharks deemed to be a threat to water
users would be destroyed.
The Western Australian Government applied to the then Minister for the
Environment, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, for an exemption under section 158 of the
EPBC Act for up to 72 baited drum lines. An exemption was granted on 10 January
2014 until 30 April 2014.
The Western Australian Government subsequently proposed that the drum
line program would continue for three additional summer seasons, which resulted
in the Western Australian Environmental Protection
Authority (EPA) initiating a public environmental review process to meet
EPBC Act and state requirements for environmental assessment and approval of
After considering the environment impacts of the proposal, the EPA announced on
11 September 2014 that it had recommended the proposal should not be
The Western Australian Government withdrew the proposal from the
EPBC Act assessment process in October 2014.
Since the EPA's decision, the Western Australian Government has further
developed its shark hazard mitigation strategy by adding beach enclosures,
extending aerial patrols, updating guidelines for taking sharks posing a
serious threat to public safety, and installing watchtowers at Cottesloe Beach.
In addition, the government may order that capture gear be set to take a shark
posing a serious threat to public safety.
Following a change in government, in May 2017 the Western Australian
Minister for Fisheries announced a new shark mitigation strategy comprising:
a trial rebate of $200 for independently verified devices
purchased by surfers and divers;
grants for local councils to install Beach Emergency Numbering
signs to improve emergency response times; and
funding for Surf Life Saving WA to use drones to monitor beaches,
two additional receivers to detect tagged sharks and funding for an additional
beach enclosure (these technologies and measures are discussed in Chapter 6).
Catch rates and bycatch from nets
and drum lines
As mesh nets are a passive fishing activity that is not selective, a
wide range of non‑target species is caught (these may include rays,
dugongs, turtles, fish, cetaceans and grey nurse sharks). Although drum lines
catch lower numbers of non‑target marine species, advice to the Minister
for the Environment from 2005 indicates that large numbers of marine turtles
are caught on drum lines.
The Humane Society International totalled the catch and bycatch rates
over several decades as follows:
Between 1975 and 2001, 11,899 sharks, including white sharks,
tiger sharks and bull sharks, were killed in nets and drum lines, and over this
same period 53,000 other marine animals were killed. Nets and drum lines are
also a major contributor to the severe decline of species such as the protected
dugong and the grey nurse shark. This is a critically endangered species which
is still being captured and killed in numbers too great to sustain the
During the Western Australian drum line trial, 172 sharks were caught.
Of these, 163 were tiger sharks, of which 64 were killed (either found
dead upon gear retrieval or destroyed). No white sharks were caught. Recorded
bycatch during the Western Australian trial comprised nine sharks of non-target
species, seven rays and one north-west blowfish.
During the 2015–16 meshing season in New South Wales, the shark meshing
program resulted in 748 marine life interactions (133 interactions with target
sharks and 615 interactions with non-target marine life). Of these
animals, 51 per cent were released alive.
The 2015–16 statistics represent a significant increase on 2014–15, when
189 marine life interactions were reported, including 145 interactions with non‑target
Over the course of the New South Wales north coast trial of nets
conducted between 8 December 2016 to 30 May 2017, 275 animals were caught. Of
these, three white sharks, three tiger sharks and three bull sharks were
caught. That is, target sharks were three per cent of the total catch. The
overall survival rate of all animals caught was 47 per cent.
As noted above, under the Queensland program 531 sharks were caught in
2016, of which 24 are recorded as being released alive. Bycatch of 55
non-target species were recorded (ether deceased or released alive).
Information published about the Queensland shark control program states that
bycatch levels 'are carefully monitored and research is focused on minimising
impacts on non-target species'.
To mitigate bycatch quantities, the Queensland program also seeks to use
drum lines instead of nets 'when possible'.
The Queensland department advised that in July 2013, the nets used at Cairns
were replaced by drum lines to reduce the bycatch of non-target marine animals.
The department advised that since this change was made 'there have been zero
non-target animals caught in Cairns equipment'.
It is also intended that other nets in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park will
be permanently replaced with drum lines, resulting in 'the Great Barrier Reef
Marine Park being free from shark nets'. Nets used in Queensland are also
surface-set to reduce the amount of bycatch.
In addition, the committee was advised that advances in acoustic alarm
technology has resulted in reductions in bycatch of certain marine mammals.
In May 2014, all nets used in the program 'were fitted with a new type of
acoustic alarm, which has assisted in a gradual reduction in the number of
dolphins caught in the following years'.
The review of the first New South Wales north coast net trial
recommended that research 'should be undertaken to design a net that reduces
In response, as part of the second trial, the New South Wales Government will
larger mesh sizes and stronger twine to reduce catch of smaller
changes to the depth of nets in the water column with the aim of
increasing survival of air-breathing fauna (turtle and dolphins); and
moving nets away from certain areas where the concentration on
non-target animals is known to be high.
As the above paragraphs indicate, the government managing a shark
control program publishes data on catch and bycatch associated with the
program. The committee received some evidence expressing concern about the
reliability of the data. Dr Jan-Olaf Meynecke, who is a marine scientist studying
dolphins and humpback whales, told the committee that the process for obtaining
necessary information based on data released by the Queensland Government is 'unfortunately,
quite complicated'. Dr Meynecke also highlighted issues with how the data is
recorded and categorised. Dr Meynecke explained:
There are separate datasets. The way EPA sources some of the
incidents is obviously through fisheries but there is also overlap data within
the EPA dataset that has to be continuously cleared. I am also aware of
incidents that are not being reported, in particular the ones that are near
misses, so animals that free themselves. We had at least another three of them
in the last two to three weeks on the Gold Coast, so animals do get entangled.
There might be even a call-out for rescue but then the animals free themselves.
I consider them actually as an incident because we do not know if the animals
are injured or stressed and what the long-term impact is. If we are
looking at numbers from last year, we can probably talk about 14 entanglements
whereas six are properly recorded as entanglements because they had to be
Stakeholder views on the lethal measures, including the catch rates and amounts
of bycatch, are discussed in the following chapter.
Navigation: Previous Page | Contents | Next Page