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Sharks Caught In Bondi Web

By Marcus Braid on January 1, 2015 in News

Photo: Amaury Treguer - Facebook: Morning Bondi

Photo: Amaury Treguer – Facebook: Morning Bondi

The two great white sharks recently caught in the netting at Bondi Beach have sparked division over the appropriate deterrent for a shark attack.

Two great whites were found dead within a week of one another in late November in the Bondi Beach shark netting, which is 200 metres long and 500 metres out to sea.

Christopher Neff, a Sydney University lecturer in public policy and specialist in shark attacks, warned that shark netting provides a false sense of security.

“Sharks in the nets is a year round phenomenon and this year is no different,” he said. “It’s important to not let shark nets or aerial patrols provide a false sense of security, because aerial patrols only see sharks around 17 percent of the time, so 83 percent of the time they don’t, and it’s just important to know that.”

Mr Neff said that public education is the best method to reduce risk.

“It’s the decisions that you make, not the decisions that governments make, that is going to determine the level of risk,” he said.

“If the question is do the nets catch sharks, the answer is absolutely yes. If the question is was that shark going to bite someone and therefore has killing that shark made swimming safer, the answer is no.

“There is no data that they can point to that [shows that] shark nets reduce the risk of a shark bite, because you would have to assume that every shark they caught was meant to bite someone.”

A spokesperson for the NSW Department of Primary Industries said the department is continuing to investigate the application of other shark control measures for use in NSW.

“To date, no viable alternatives to shark nets have been found,” the spokesperson said. “Our shark meshing program is highly successful and has helped provide a safer environment for swimmers and surfers for the past 75 years.

“There has not been a single fatal shark attack on a netted Sydney beach since the nets were introduced in 1937.”

But Mr Neff said this fact was misleading.

“Fatalities at Bondi stopped eight years before the nets were put in,” he said. “They always say there hasn’t been a shark fatality at Bondi since the nets were put in in 1937 and it’s true, but there hasn’t been a shark fatality at Bondi since 1929. You can’t say that the nets were the answer. There also wasn’t a shark fatality at Bondi when the nets were taken out during WWII.

“Forty percent of the sharks caught are caught on the swimmers’ side trying to get out. There is no evidence where you can point to the nets as the scientific reason for the reduction in shark fatalities. There’s just no data to support that.”

Waverley Greens Councillor Dominic Wy Kanak said hysteria surrounding shark attacks needed to be balanced with statistics.

“An average of one person dies per year in Australia as a shark attack victim, compared with over 2,000 deaths per year from skin cancer, 297 drownings per year and 8,137 deaths per year from smoking,” he said.

“Bondi shark nets are intended to interrupt the swimming pattern of nearby sharks and when the shark alarm is sounded we hope beach users comply with the lifeguards’ instructions.”

Cr Wy Kanak was hopeful new shark detection sonar technology would be trialled soon.

“Council’s lifeguards have been contacted by a company developing revolutionary shark detection sonar,” he said. “It is state of the art technology using sonar and satellite to detect aquatic movement between the headlands.

“It can tell the difference between the aquatic creatures and send a message to the lifeguard tower. We hope to one day be able to better protect our beach users without the use of shark nets, because of the nets’ inhumane shark kills and by-catch of unintended harmless non-predatory marine life.”