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  • Writer's pictureInga

Shark Nets: A Controversial Approach to Ocean Safety 🎥

Shark Nets, also known as shark barriers or shark nets, are mesh barriers deployed in coastal areas to protect beachgoers from potential shark attacks. These physical barriers aim to create a separation between sharks and humans, reducing the risk of encounters and promoting safer recreational activities in the ocean. While proponents argue that sharknets save lives and support local economies dependent on tourism, critics raise concerns about their environmental impact and effectiveness. This article delves into the complexities surrounding shark nets, examining their benefits, drawbacks, and alternative approaches to ocean safety.

Blue Shark - Credit goodfreephotos.com

The Purpose and Design of Shark Nets


Shark Nets are typically constructed using nylon mesh and steel cables. They are positioned parallel to the shoreline, extending from the seabed to the water's surface. The primary goal is to create a barrier that prevents sharks from entering designated swimming areas while allowing other marine life to move freely. By providing a physical obstacle, shark nets are intended to reduce the potential for shark attacks and create a perceived sense of safety for beachgoers. These barriers are often complemented by aerial surveillance, signage, and lifeguard patrols to enhance their effectiveness.


Benefits of Shark Nets


Advocates of shark nets argue that they play a crucial role in protecting human lives. By establishing a clear separation between sharks and swimmers, they can prevent potentially dangerous encounters and reduce the number of shark attacks. This perceived safety boost can contribute to increased tourism, benefiting local economies heavily reliant on beach-related activities. For coastal regions with high shark populations, shark nets offer a proactive approach to managing the risks associated with these apex predators.


Drawbacks and Controversies


Critics of shark nets raise several concerns that question their effectiveness and environmental impact. One key issue is their selective approach to shark control. Sharknets primarily target larger species, such as great whites, while smaller sharks and other potentially harmful marine animals, like stingrays, can still enter swimming areas. This limited effectiveness raises ethical questions about the practice of shark culling and its impact on biodiversity.


Another significant concern is the unintended consequences of shark nets on marine ecosystems. By acting as physical barriers, shark nets disrupt the natural movement and migratory patterns of marine creatures, potentially impacting their breeding, feeding, and overall well-being. Additionally, marine animals, including sharks, may become entangled or injured in the nets, leading to unintended harm and suffering. Scientific research (https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com) tells us shark nets are ineffective at reducing the risks of shark attacks.


Despite this, indiscriminate shark nets remain in the water and harm countless marine animals, including turtles, rays, dolphins and even whales.

Sharknet - Credit Dreamstime.com





Whale caught in shark net - Credit Bing Image Creator















Alternative Approaches to Ocean Safety


In response to the controversies surrounding shark nets, alternative strategies for ocean safety have emerged. One approach is the use of non-lethal technologies, such as drone surveillance, acoustic repellents, and electromagnetic devices, which aim to deter sharks from swimming near popular beach areas without physically harming them. Research and development in these technologies continue to advance, offering promising alternatives to shark nets.


Education and public awareness campaigns also play a vital role in promoting ocean safety. Educating beachgoers about shark behaviour, the importance of responsible swimming practices, and the need for coexistence with marine life can foster a greater understanding and reduce the fear associated with sharks.

Coolum Beach, Queensland/Australia - Credit Author

I quote from an article in Nature Conservancy Australia: “The odds of being killed by a shark in Australia are one in 8 million. It’s the same likelihood of being killed by a kangaroo - even though kangaroos don’t evoke the same fear in us, the danger is there, but it is miniscule”.

(https://www.natureaustralia.org.au/what-we-do/our-priorities/wildlife/wildlife-stories/sharks/)


Shark nets are a controversial method of protecting swimmers from shark attacks. While they offer a perceived sense of safety and support local economies dependent on beach tourism, their selective approach and potential environmental impacts raise concerns. Exploring non-lethal technologies and focusing on education and awareness campaigns can provide more sustainable and effective solutions for ocean safety.


As we strive to coexist with the natural world, striking a balance between human interests and environmental conservation is crucial for the long-term health of our oceans and their inhabitants.

🎥 (2:19) Is it the end of the line for Australia’s shark nets?

Australia's leading shark biologists and conservationists are campaigning for shark nets to be removed from all east coast beaches, permanently.



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