20.9.09

Shark Netting could vanish in Australia still there's always the machine guns

A very brief history on nets Invitations for public submissions on how to address the shark attack problem in 1935 resulted in some pretty outrageous suggestions, including the use of machine guns mounted on headlands, and explosives to kill sharks. Just imagine the brochures: little children frolicking happily in the surf, sea gulls and bullets flying overhead, great white plumes exploding on the blue horizon, and chunks of dead shark rolling in on the tide. Not ideal marketing material to sell your slice of paradise! The theory behind the net is quite simple: fewer sharks equal less chance of shark attacks. The sharks are caught in the net by their fins and drown, reducing the risk of attacks. History suggests this works very well - prior to the introduction of shark nets in 1936, fatal attacks occurred about once a year on Sydney's popular ocean beaches. Since then, there have been no deaths associated with sharks. However how the nets are affecting shark populations is unknown. While theories about declining catch rates are yet to be confirmed much also remains to be learned about the territorial behaviour of sharks. Weighing the benefits of the reduced risk of shark attack against the relatively unknown environmental impact of shark meshing is complicated by several highly emotive issues. The impact on the marine ecology of removing large predatory sharks is not completely known, and protected species such as dolphins, turtles, and whales can also fall victim to the nets. For instance, in May 2001, a humpback whale calf became entangled in the nets off the Gold Coast and died while its 20 plus tonne mother looked on. As a result of this and other incidents, there is increasing pressure on the NSW and Queensland governments, which administer nets, to cease the practice. I was not aware the Queensland government had them however on asking a Queensland lifeguard was told quite firmly that we had them up here; he declined to comment further. My personal opinion is that ok there are a few fatalities with the Sharks and Whales, and other denizen's of the deep which to me as an animal lover is sad but one has to put the human being first. Although the United States has one of the highest rates of litigation in the world, it does not have shark nets. This is despite the fact that an average of more than 15 shark attacks per year occur on the Florida coast alone. It is not inconceivable in our modern blame culture that in the future, we could see a court ruling finding the liability for a shark attack at a previously meshed beach rests on the shoulders of the government. Removing shark nets in Australia could expose the NSW and Queensland governments to a legal risk which doesn't even exist in the USA, where shark meshing has been considered but never practised. Until someone tries to sue a government for losing a limb, spouse, or child to a shark, we cannot be sure how the legal system would deal with such a thing I did find it odd that no nets existed in the USA very odd to be honest Public Opinion wavers Doesn't it always lol

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