A NEWCASTLE University marine biologist has called for shark nets to be banned, saying they needlessly kill innocent marine species.
Dr David Powter, a shark expert, said the nets ‘‘catch a lot of harmless sharks and rays that get tangled up and die’’.
‘‘The evidence that the nets work is not strong, but the evidence that they have a negative effect on the marine environment is very strong,’’ Dr Powter said.
The latest available NSW Department of Primary Industries data from 2010-11 shows 157 species were found tangled in nets at the 51 beaches that have them in Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong. Of those, 98 died and 59 were released alive.
The figures included 60 rays (19 died), 18 hammerhead sharks (17 died), six great white sharks (all died), two dolphins (both died), seven turtles (five died), three grey nurse sharks (one died), two bull sharks (both died), two tiger sharks (one died) and six bronze whaler sharks (all died).
A department spokesman said its shark netting program was ‘‘regarded as the most efficient and effective solution in helping to provide a safer environment for swimmers and surfers’’.
Dr Powter said there were no shark attacks in a lot of swimming beaches where nets were not used.
Stockton Surf Lifesaving Club president Callan Nickerson said he could see both sides of the story.
‘‘I can see the benefit they serve with gauging the amount of sharks caught,’’ Mr Nickerson said.
‘‘Our beach is 36 kilometres long and the net is 500 metres off the beach and spans 150 metres.’’
The department spokesman said contractors check nets three times a week on average.
‘‘Contractors are required to free all live marine life found in the nets where it is practical and safe to do so.’’