The Shark Net Debate: Does The Shark Net Program Do More Harm Than Good?


Australia uses shark control equipment to catch and reduce the number of potentially dangerous sharks on its coastlines. These nets also pose a significant risk to other marine life including endangered species.

The shark nets are designed to purposely trap sharks to reduce encounters with those of us who decide to enter the water.

In shallow areas, predominantly in Australia, shark nets keep swimming and surfing enthusiasts safe, but do they cause more harm than good?

Let’s learn more about these controversial nets and seek to further understand just how well they work.

How Do Shark Nets Work?

Sharks play a vital role in aquatic ecosystems, as they are essential to regulating marine populations worldwide. However, most sharks pose no threat to humans.

Most shark attacks are incredibly rare and are usually provoked, yet we lay nets along coastlines to create a deterrent barrier for our safety. Imagine someone putting a net in your home to prevent you from reaching the kitchen; that is pretty much what shark nets are doing.

The primary purpose of shark nets is to catch sharks to reduce their numbers in beach areas. They are most commonly used in Australia along the East Coast, where they were first introduced in New South Wales in 1937, following shark bite fatalities.

The nets are usually 150 m in length, 6 m high, and are set in approximately 10-12 m of water, 500 m out to sea, and parallel to the shore. Therefore they do not entirely reduce the risk of shark attacks. However, the nets are checked by government contractors for both sharks and non-target species like dolphins, whales, rays, and turtles.

If small sharks are caught in the nets, they are released, but if they are big and still alive (usually they die from starvation or exhaustion, or both), they are euthanised.

Dr McPhee, an environmental scientist from Bond University, said "A lot of people mistakenly think it's a shark enclosure, that the beach is enclosed, but that's not the case. It's difficult to determine their effectiveness with any great certainty because to do that you'd actually need to be putting people at risk."

How Do Drumlines Work?

Firstly, Queensland alone has almost 400 of these ‘killing machines’. Drumlines are large baited hooks that hang underwater on a chain attached to a surface buoy. Drumlines are only successful during times of the day when sharks actively hunt for food.

They aim to catch sharks that have been killed from baited hooks. If the sharks are found alive, they are euthanised by Agriculture & Fisheries contractors. Sharks are often killed in one of two ways; stabbing them in the head or shooting them.