Luka Osborne

The latest review on shark nets by The Ministry of Primary Industries has divided opinions on the ethical ramifications of these devices, claimed to protect families swimming in local Sydney beaches. Spokeswoman Minister Niall Blair described the mission statement as attempting to “minimise the risk to swimmers and surfers from shark attacks and the amount of bycatch caught.”

Despite this, the 2015-2016 report has revealed that there has been a significant increase in wildlife snared in nets along NSW beaches. In nets between Wollongong and Newcastle 133 target sharks, including Great Whites, Bull Sharks and Tiger Sharks were caught, however this number is dwarfed by the 615 non-target species, such as 425 rays, turtles, 145 non-threatening sharks and 16 dolphins. Raising concerns was the 90 threatened or protected species including four dead common dolphins, five dead Hawksbill Turtles and five dead Grey Nurse Sharks.

Justin Field a spokesman for the Greens states the net program should be replaced with methods that don’t reduce numbers of already endangered wildlife, as reported by the ABC.

“Laid out nose to tail the marine animals killed by this program including dolphins, rays, turtles and non-threatening sharks would stretch half the length of Bondi Beach,” he commented.

Vigulante conservationist Dave Thomas has taken things into his own hands to safely remove trapped wildlife from the nets.

“If there was an animal alive in it I would cut it out…I will assess the safety of me and the people around me (and) I will do three cuts,” he told The Daily Telegraph.

The State government however has reported such acts as vandalism and as endangering to beach going families. Acts of such can land an eco-warrior in jail for five years.

With such a contentious issue one would hope there is a solution that protects both beach going families and endangered marine species. Thankfully it has been found that sharks are repelled by large waves of electro-magnetism as it disrupts their navigational senses that they would usually use to detect their location within the Earth’s magnetic field.

A study by Nathan Hart and Shaun Collin from Macquarie University and Western Australia University respectively, found that magnetic waves that differ to their normal prey have been found to be the most deterrent. Although studies on such repellants are in their early stages, devices such as the “Shark Shield” have already been made available to the public.

As many scientists see the promise in continuing to develop these technologies, an easy medium may be found between the protectionists and the conservationists, and hopefully whether you have flippers or feet, we will all be able to have a good day at the beach.