|This article needs additional citations for verification. (September 2013)|
Shark nets do not offer complete protection but work on the principle of "fewer sharks, fewer attacks". They reduce occurrence via shark mortality. Reducing the local shark populations is believed to reduce the chance of an attack. The large mesh size of the nets is designed specifically to capture sharks and prevent their escape until eventually, they drown. Due to boating activity, the nets also float 4 metres or more below the surface and do not connect with the shoreline (excluding Hong Kong's shark barrier nets) thus allowing sharks the opportunity to swim over and around nets.
With the use of shark nets there is also the high incidence of bycatch, including threatened and endangered species like sea turtles, dugongs, dolphins and whales. In QLD in the 2011/12 summer season there were 714 sharks caught, 281 above 2 metres in shark nets and drum lines.
Animal welfare groups suggest alternatives such as surf lifesaving, public education on shark behaviour, radio signals, sonar technology and electric nets. Drum lines are also viewed, by some people, as an alternative: they consist of baited hooks aimed at catching only large sharks (though turtles are sometimes hooked).
In New South Wales, Australia, 51 beaches are netted. The nets are maintained by the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries. The nets are generally 150 metres long, 6 m wide and "bottom-set" on the seabed in depths of 10 m. The nets can be 500 metres from the beach. The mesh is sized 50–60 centimetres. Nets are lifted every 24 to 48 hours for servicing so as to prevent rotting, to clean out debris and to remove dead sharks and other marine life. It is said that 35–50% of the sharks are entangled from the beach side. Acoustic "pingers" have been fitted to the nets to warn off dolphins and whales and the nets are not in place in winter, the whale migration season. The Department states that the nets have "never been regarded as a means of absolutely preventing any attacks", but help to deter sharks from establishing territories. The netting program began in 1937 and during 70 years while the nets have been in operation, there has been only one fatal attack on a netted beach.
In Queensland, Australia, drum lines are used. The Shark Safety Program has been in place since the early 1960s. A fatal attack in January 2006 on a North Stradbroke Island beach, was on a beach protected by drum lines.
In Hong Kong, after the shark-attack death of three swimmers over 10 days in 1995, the government installed shark nets on all 32 gazetted beaches. Unlike the long-line and gill-net designs common in Australia and South Africa, these are permanent installations and are barrier nets. There have been zero fatalities since installation in 1995.
The Hong Kong nets are generally 35 mm square on the surface 2 m and 100 mm square thereafter. They are suspended off 225 mm HDPE pipe or BL14 Marine Float Lines, and anchored strongly to resist the many typhoons and waves up to 10 m. They are anti-fouled, and spend an average of 9 months a year in the water. An average net enclosure would be 500 m long and either semi-circular or rectangular in shape. They are diver-inspected a minimum of two times a week, and independent verification is required. They also exclude floating refuse, and clearly define the swimming area. They can be clearly picked out on Google Earth - at 22^14'38" North, 114^11'26" East, see "Repulse Bay".
- [dead link]
- "Data Tables: Shark control program: Sharks caught by area, Queensland, 2002–03 to 2012–13 (OESR, Queensland Treasury)". Oesr.qld.gov.au. 2013-07-26. Retrieved 2013-09-11.
- "Summer is coming and so are the sharks". Smh.com.au. 2012-10-19. Retrieved 2013-09-11.
- "NSW Shark Meshing publications | NSW Department of Primary Industries". Dpi.nsw.gov.au. Retrieved 2013-09-11.
- Sarah Vogler. "Monster shark spreads fear off Queensland coast". Couriermail.com.au. Retrieved 2013-09-16.
- 76 Chung Hom Kok Rd (1970-01-01). "Google Maps". Google.com. Retrieved 2013-09-11.
- [dead link]
- Shark Nets at the Smithsonian Ocean Portal
- Baby whale dies in shark net (News24)
- ABC story detailing history and science behind shark nets
- Petition to remove the net installations from municipalities of KwaZulu-Natal