New shark nets spark controversy

24 Mar

By Emily Kershek, Bond University Journalism Student

Shark nets introduced to the Gold Coast in 1962 have continued to spark controversy among residents.

The Queensland Government Department of Agriculture and Fisheries website said the purpose of shark nets was to catch dangerous sharks that could attack swimmers and surfers.

Bond University Associate Professor of Environmental Science Daryl McPhee said bull sharks, white sharks, and tiger sharks were responsible for most fatalities, but not all bites were fatal.

“It’s logical to think that if you’re killing large sharks the beach is safer, but it’s very difficult to determine objectively whether they work or not,” he said.

While these nets were installed to prevent fatal shark attacks along the coast, many people fear they are doing more harm than good.

Gold Coast resident Elise Figuero said she believed shark nets came with a cost and were causing more damage to the environment than performing their intended function.

“I think that they’re a waste of money to be honest,” she said.

“And then they put the other marine life in danger, so for me I think it’s totally not beneficial in reducing attacks.

“I think people just have to take basic precautions and then you can avoid incidents in the water, so, for me, it’s a big waste of government money.”

However, resident Essa Hourani said she didn’t mind the shark nets installed along the Gold Coast because they provided people with a sense of safety.

“We’re surrounded by water so if you can do something to make people feel safer in that environment, then at least they have peace of mind and can enjoy their life,” he said.

“Of course, it’s not nice what happens to the fish and other ocean life, but I guess that’s the price to pay for a bit of human safety.

“There has to be a risk balance between what we do that affects nature and what we do to protect ourselves.”

With Gold Coast residents either supporting or opposing shark nets, one thing is for certain, according to Dr. McPhee.

“You’re about 20 times more likely to drown at a surf beach than you are being bitten or killed by a shark, so if you look at it objectively, the risk is low with or without shark nets,” he said.

 

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