Alternatives to Shark Nets?
Shark nets are a contentious topic in modern society, and the nation is split in their opinions. While many welcome the nets and their proposed safety, there are others who call for non-lethal shark deterrence methods. While these nets are proven to kill sharks, by-catch issues are huge. Species including whales, dolphins and turtles are becoming entangled and losing their lives. So is there a better way? America is a country where shark prevention is discussed at length and new tactics are coming to fruition to safely protect both humans and sharks. In a country where shark tourism creates over 200 million US dollars in revenue per year compared to the 6 million US dollars in Australia, sharks are well worth protecting! In Western Australia’s shark cull the government have spent over 20 million dollars in nets, drum and helicopter surveys alone.
Without the installation of shark nets in America, there have only been 6 fatalities in the past 8 years, which includes the islands of Hawaii. In Australia the nets are often set in 10 metres of water, only reaching 6 metres from the bottom, therefore allowing sharks to swim through with relative ease. These nets are more fishing devices that preventative measures and in 2014 over a three-month period the lines in Western Australia caught 172 sharks, of which 163 were tiger sharks and none great whites. This is ironic and wasteful as there have been no instances of tiger sharks attacking humans in that area for over 20 years and the importance of sharks to the marine ecosystem is vital.
Common Sense & Education
Despite popular belief, a shark will avoid humans at all cost. Many shark interactions occur with free-diving and spearfishing when there is a dying, often thrashing fish on the line. In this instance, common sense and education play a huge role! You have a mask, so keep your eyes on the shark, maintain eye contact and never let the shark out of your sight – the ones you don’t see are the ones that pose a threat. Try to stay on the surface as little as possible, that is where many species including great whites feed, often hunting from below. Never harass a shark, most attacks are caused by the foolish behaviour of humans, often touching or scaring the shark, provoking them to defend themselves. Furthermore, avoid swimming or surfing in renowned shark areas or predation grounds such as seal colonies, your life is not worth the risk.
Other Preventative Methods
It’s pricey, but can you put a price on safety? That’s up to you! Surfers are perhaps the most susceptible to unprovoked shark attacks, at least they are the community you hear about most in the tabloids as they surf in the shallow areas where sharks have patrolled for millions of years. The shark shield is the only ‘proven’ electrical shark deterrent, a device which emits a three-dimensional electronic field around the surfer. The 500 US dollar invention causes these strong pulses which in theory cause the sharks to get a short yet powerful non-lethal spasm which ‘should’ cause the shark to retreat away. Applicable to surfboards, scuba units and other marine devices, the shark shield technology is leading the way in the shark prevention game.
On the cape of South Africa, a plethora of shark species roam, yet there have been minimal attacks due to the shark spotting programme. At elevated points on the land, a group of dedicated crew survey the coast with powerful binoculars seeking signs of sharks. If a shark is seen approaching populated beaches the spotter will radio coordinators at the site who will begin evacuation or preventative measures. In times where drones are becoming more popular for beach safety patrol, a measure that can easily be implemented with trials already underway in NSW.