Netting works, but governments still persist with easier options

The West Australian government is in murky waters with the plan to fund personal shark repellents over conventional, proven measures such as drumlines, nets and selective culling.

NSW policy makers showed the same reluctance towards invasive, but proven, shark mitigation strategies, before spiralling shark fatalities prompted a landmark $16 million shark strategy underpinned by SMART drumlines and investment in new technologies, in October 2015.

Then premier Mike Baird was hamstrung by regulations to put in new nets, until continuing shark encounters forced his hand and prompted legislation in November 2016 to trial smart nets off several north coast beaches, embedded with receivers that alert authorities when animals are caught. The state government planned to net two beaches, until Ballina Shire Council requested more. The nets have been in place on the far north coast since late November, with no fatalities since.

While academics argue its too early to draw a definite link between the measures and the reduction in attacks, Ballina councillors are happy with the outcome. “Shark nets are a proven mechanism to reduce attacks. The evidence is quite clear that the netting program between Newcastle and Wollongong has been very effective,” Ballina Shire deputy mayor Jeff Johnson said.

Ahead of the recent election, Premier Mark McGowan dismissed WA’s existing $33m shark mitigation measures in announcing a $200,000 subsidy scheme for personal deterrent devices, in which 1000 devices such as the Shark Shield would be eligible for a $200 state government subsidy.

The plan has its advantages, but is fraught with difficulty in its execution, according to Bond University environmental management associate professor Daryl McPhee, who has been among experts and consumer advocates to argue that the space is fraught with unproven technologies which could encourage more risky behaviour in the water.

“There’s a new product cropping up on the patent list every day, but there’s little evidence any of these products actually work,’’ Professor McPhee said. “Independently tested is the phrase that they need to look for in determining what works.”

Consumer advocates at Choice have echoed the concerns, and warned ocean-goers to be alert to some products which carry heavy disclaimers, including products such as the SharkBanz, which warns users that it is ineffective in deterring great white sharks.

“Our concern over personal shark deterrents is that the ­increased perception of safety may lead to users taking more risks than they normally would,” spokeswoman Nicky Breen said.


About Redden Custom Netting

In 1958, John Redden started Redden Net Co. Ltd to supply commercial fishing gear to the fishing communities of the Pacific Northwest. Now, more than fifty years later, we have an in-house net loft staffed by professional, experienced net builders – and our executive team has more than 100 combined years of experience in every facet of industrial netting. So no matter what industry you’re in, if you need a net, we can build it.

Over the last fifty years, our technology, applications, and materials have become more complex, but our business philosophy remains simple. Treat employees and customers – right.  We do. And we’ll do it for you.

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