Bondi Beach shark nets: Call for controversial change to Sydney beach

There are growing calls for a big change to be made at Bondi Beach with the end of winter now in sight – but not everyone is happy about the proposed changes.

Waverley Council mayor Paula Masselos has become the latest person to call for shark nets to be removed, in the wake of several councils and some MPs lobbying for the nets to be scrapped.

Speaking toSky News’ Chris Kenny on Wednesday night, Ms Masselos called for the nets to be removed at major beaches like Bondi and Bronte in favour of new and improved technology.

She noted the nets were the responsibility of the State Government, but said her council was “working closely” with the government on this matter.

Ms Masselos said people in her local community were “very concerned about the bycatch” in shark nets.

Last week, the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) released its annual performance report on the Shark Meshing (Bather Protection) Program.

The report revealed 376 marine animals were caught in shark nets during the 2021/22 meshing season, with the nets only in place off 51 NSW beaches between September and April each year.

Of the animals that were caught, only 51 were targeted shark species, with the other 325 all non-target animals.

Shockingly, just 38 per cent were released alive, with the other 234 killed, including five critically endangered grey nurse sharks and 14 green turtles.

The non-target animals consisted of 149 non-target sharks, 130 rays, 40 turtles, one dolphin, one whale and four finfish.

Eighty-four of the animals caught in the nets were threatened species, including 28 white sharks, 19 green turtles; 16 leatherback turtles, 14 grey nurse sharks; four loggerhead turtles, two great hammerhead sharks, and one humpback whale.

Ms Masselos pointed out the nets are “very old technology” and actually only span a very small section of Bondi Beach.

“The nets are only 150 metres long, they are six metres high and are put at a depth of about 10 metres. So sharks, in fact, can swim around, under and over them,” she toldSky News.

“The reality is, with our beaches, Bondi is 1000 metres and Bronte is 220 metres, so the shark nets aren’t very effective – I don’t think – in actually stopping the sharks from coming in.”

Kenny pointed out that since the nets were introduced in the 1930s, there has only been one fatal shark attack at a netted NSW beach.

However, Ms Masselos claimed there is a question as to whether the nets played a significant role in protecting against sharks, noting there are now “far better ways” to keep beachgoers safe.

“There was a consultation that the State Government did in 2021 and Council did resolve that meshing was actually not the best way of protecting our beaches,” she said.

“There are far better ways now of actually protecting our beaches that are far better technologies like smart drumlines, we have a listening buoy in the bay of Bondi so that it can pick up tagged sharks that have been caught by the drumlines, we have ariel surveillance.”

Shark spotting drones will also soon be used by Waverly lifeguards after Ms Masselos introduced a Mayoral Minute during a Council meeting on Tuesday night.

There are many in the community that agree with Ms Masselos bid to remove the nets, with one social media branding them “cruel”, claiming they “kill more creatures than sharks”.

“Scared of sharks, don’t swim in the water. It’s not like the sharks attack people in the car park,” another said.

One person added: “They should have been removed years ago. They don’t work and kill other aquatic animals.”

However, there were others who are vehemently opposed to the idea of taking away the nets.

“People over Sharks! Keep the nets!” one person wrote on Facebook.

Another person claimed the arguments of those lobbying to get rid of them were “ridiculous”.

“If those nets save one life then it’s worth it and the argument that it’s their habitat is soo dumb because water covers over 70 per cent of earth so netting off public beaches for safety isn’t doing any real harm because it’s a dot in the ocean!” they claimed.

“How is this even a conversation? The woke culture at it again with their pathetic ideas.”

The Waverly mayor also spoke to Nine’s Today show on Thursday morning, noting we are now “in the 21st century” and can do “much, much better” than shark nets in terms of keeping people safe in the water.

She even noted the nets could create a “false sense of safety” for some people.

“We actually often see sharks on the inside of the shark nets. When you look at Bondi, it is actually a kilometre long. So the shark net isn’t creating a huge barrier at all. I think it’s actually creating a false sense of safety,” she said.

“There have been attacks in the past even when the nets have been up.”

Fatal attack back in the spotlight

These calls for shark nets to be removed come just six months after 35-year-old diving instructor Simon Nellist was tragically killed by a shark at Buchan Point, near Little Bay in Sydney.

He was swimming just 150m away from the beach training for a charity ocean swim in February when the attack occurred in front of dozens of horrified witnesses.

It was the first fatal shark attack in Sydney in almost 60 years.

His death rocked the country, leaving many understandably frightened to enter the water.

This resulted in calls for the shark to be captured and killed, along with calls for shark culling in general.

However, Mr Nellist himself was vocal about his views on shark nets, with his family remembering him as a lover of the ocean and marine life enthusiast.

“Shark net and drum lines protect no one and kill all kinds of marine life each year,” he wrote on Facebook six months before his tragic death.

In response to the attack, Department of Primary Industries (DPI) deployed six SMART drumlines from Little Bay Beach to Long Bay.

This technology uses hooks loaded with bait to trap the sharks so that they can then be tagged and relocated.

This new drumlines are designed to kill fewer animals as it issues an alert when an animal is caught, with the idea that people will be able to go and release them before they die.

However, there are still concerns over the stress and injury caused by their capture.

Originally published as Waverly mayor calls for controversial change to Bondi Beach

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