Saturday, January 9, 2010

Shark Nets, Sharks, Whales, Marine Fauna, People and Saving Lives . . .

Sharks evoke many emotions in our species from respect and awe, to fear and revulsion, but I must admit I have a sincere fondness for these amazing fish and the important place they occupy in our marine ecosystems.
It sickens me to see shark and ray carcasses left to rot on our beaches by fellow fisherman who possibly feel they are doing us all a favour by ridding the world of these dreadful killers one at a time!

Perhaps for some it is blood lust and for others just plain ignorance but whatever the motive the result is the same, a total waste of a valuable and important marine creature.
On a larger scale there is the massive issue of shark netting in Australia, something that I personally find repulsive. It’s bad enough to slaughter sharks for no reason other than their geographic location but the by catch which these nets indiscriminately destroy is totally unacceptable to any rational, thinking person.

Marine Wildlife Australia recently published the following story in Townsville’s Place Street Press and I have posted it on the blog for you!

I might step aside now and let James McLellan from Marine Wildlife Australia share his thoughts on….

Sharks, People and Saving Lives ...

It was an era when we still pumped untreated sewerage into our rivers and seas, school children were punished with a bamboo cane, we had already systematically hunted the Tasmanian tiger into extinction and eagles and other native species carried a bounty to encourage shooting them as pests. These were much less enlightened times, thankfully times have changed and most of these barbaric practices have come to an end.
Unfortunately the Shark Control Program, one of the short-sighted and unsustainable relics from these darker days, is still going strong. The theory behind the Program was to stop large predatory sharks from establishing territories at popular swimming beaches and preying on swimmers. The problem with this theory is that it isn’t supported by science on known shark behaviour (except in the movie Jaws).

Internationally there is major concern regarding the decline in shark numbers and a number of shark species commonly killed in the Program are now listed as endangered or threatened in Australian and International legislation.
Endangered Grey nurse shark Carcharias taurus,
photo copyright Richard Ling.

You will always hear of how many killer sharks have been removed by the shark control program. What you will not hear about is the amount of bycatch that is caught and often killed in the process. Have you ever wondered why you will almost never see giant cod at Magnetic Island?

To give you an idea here are some numbers taken from a recent review of the program - From 1990 to 2000 the Program took 840 turtles, 18 rare dolphins, and 100 common dolphins.
The Shark Control Program has also killed several whales over the last decade, and with more of these magnificent creatures visiting our shores each year, it will probability kill more in years to come.

This video is great too.

What you almost never hear about or find any information on is numbers for the less iconic marine wildlife killed in the program, like the 13,765 harmless rays that were taken between 1962 to 1988.
Like this ray? Check out this post.

Shark control program equipment even killed a person once.

After a fatal shark attack in 1999 the Western Australian Government took a much more enlightened approach to the issue of human/shark interactions. They formed an expert committee to investigate options. On the advice of this committee the establishment of a Shark Control Program was rejected in favour of passive measures including, public education, aerial surveillance and extended surveillance by surf lifesavers.

The continued indiscriminate slaughter of sharks and other marine species in this archaic program has no place in modern Australia. Marine stingers and drownings together represent a much greater threat to human life than sharks ever will. On average, one life is lost per year due to shark attack (including one on a shark control program ‘protected’ beach on Stradbroke Island recently). Yet, on average, 122 lives are lost per year due to drowning in natural bodies of water (see this report, pdf).

Marine Wildlife Australia is of the view that the money spent on this program will be better spent providing more Lifesavers and appropriately located stinger nets (which provide an enclosed area that sharks are unlikely to enter), where it will do the most good and save the most lives.

To express your concerns, you can write a short note to the Queensland Minister for Primary Industries and Fisheries or the Federal Minister for the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts at:

The Hon, Tim Mulherrin MP
Minister for Primary Industries and Fisheries
GPO Box 46
QLD, 4001

The Hon Peter Garrett AM MP
Minister for the Environment, Heritage, and the Arts
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Online contact form:

James McLellan, Marine Wildlife Australia
To contact us, email:

Russ here again!

Thank you James and Marine Wildlife Australia, I’m with you guys when it comes to shark nets and the more I learn about them the more I dislike them.

I can’t resist leaving one last video before I go!

Cheers Russ


  1. I was having a discussion about how our attitudes towards sharks have changed in the past decade or so. When someone gets taken by a shark the calls for slaughter are nowhere as loud as they used to be.

    It seems that shark nets are there to make people feel safer rather than actually making them safer.

  2. I agree snail in this day and age the likes of shark killers like Vic Hislop are no longer considered heroes.
    Shark nets are like the little night light toddlers have near their beds to keep those scary monsters away.They are a remnant of our ignorant fearful past and have no place in our modern world.
    Thanks for your comments Snail!


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