I have blogged about the subject of shark nets before (“Shark Culling is NOT the Answer”). Those in favor of shark culling argue that nets reduce the amount of shark attacks by catching and killing large predatory sharks. They say that since shark culling began, there have been no fatalities due to shark attacks on culled beaches. Activists and environmentalists contend that these nets are damaging to all marine life alike, as they do not discriminate between sharks, whales, seals, dolphins, rays, or even sea turtles. The NSW Greens MP, Cate Faehrmann, told the Sydney Morning Herald that shark nets are nothing but a “psychological comfort to swimmers.” In fact, she views them as ineffective. “The nets were supposed to be a barrier to stop sharks reaching shallow water, but in reality almost half of shark entanglements occur on the beach side of the nets,” she said.
Lisa Mondy survived an attack last year at the jaws of a great white shark. Despite this, she has since advocated for the removal of shark nets. On January 18, Australian surfer Glen “Lenny” Folkard was attacked by a shark (believed to be a young great white or bull shark) at Redhead Beach. Redhead Beach, which is about 100 miles north of Sydney, is a netted beach. To Mondy and Greens campaigners, this instance only further fuels the argument that shark nets need to be eradicated. “Shark netting was introduced over 70 years ago and is now outdated and in dire need of revising.”
Is there another alternative? Yes. Mondy suggests a warning system that could take various factors, such as water visibility and movement of prey, into account, and allow swimmers and surfers analyze the risks themselves and make their own decisions about whether they should venture out into the water that day. While people may disagree about methods that could decrease the risk of shark attacks, one thing is clear: People need to be educated. Every time we enter the ocean, we are sharing it with its natural inhabitants. Fear is not an acceptable excuse for removing individuals from their own environment. Further, sharks are also vital to the oceanic environment. Removing them could produce effects that reverberate throughout the marine ecosystem.