Shark nets in NSW waters have yet again raised environmental concerns with a baby humpback whale getting trapped in net ropes off Norah Head on Nov 3. Rescue crews braved strong waters to free the trapped whale calf, once again drawing attention to the problems caused by the equipment. The incident occurred as the Wyong Council held a Shark Summit with shark experts and marine scientists for better management of sharks on the Central Coast.

Sandra English, a surfing coach who observed the whale rescue, said, “I don’t like shark nets for this reason. They’re pointless, especially at this beach where we don’t see many sharks here anyway,” reports The Australian.

Shark nets have been criticised in the past for killing numerous marine species such as whales, dolphins, turtles and the harmless hammerhead and grey nurse sharks. The incident emphasised the need for shark nets to be replaced by non-lethal technology, some of which were announced by the NSW government on Oct 25 in a media release. These include sonar buoys, aerial patrols, real-time tagging and other refined procedures to reduce harm while preventing shark attacks.

Organisations such as the Humane Society International (HSI) have condemned the decision to use shark nets in NSW waters. Jessica Morris, program officer at HSI, said, “The fact that we are seeing another endangered marine species trapped in shark meshing while Government officials discuss methods for reducing already very rare shark incidences, shows that we are waiting too long to remove harmful shark nets from NSW,” in an HSI press release.

Nonetheless, equipment such as drumlines still have the potential to kill species that are not targeted. In that, it is similar to shark nets, causing excess damage to marine species while doing little to protect people.

“The east coast population of grey nurse is down to about 1000 individuals and mortality of any grey nurse individual is highly concerning,” said Morris. “HSI again urges the Government to continue to focus on non-lethal alternatives that are known to not cause mortality of our marine wildlife, and to unequivocally rule out the future use of drumlines,” she added.

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