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Shark net danger to whale migration

Sunshine Coast Daily

24th May 2004.

Greens want wildlife killers gone as researchers look for alternatives
A SUNSHINE Coast supporter of shark nets strung off local beaches sees them as a "necessary evil'' even though he concedes they are threats to migrating whales.

A net designed to stop fatal shark attacks on humans has already ensnared an 11-metre humpback whale heading north as part of the annual migration. The whale entangled off the Gold Coast last week was successfully cut free by the Queensland Boating and Fisheries mammal response team and swam off apparently unharmed.

Sunshine Coast offshore fishing operator Barry McDade said such entrapments were always "on the cards'' but he believed the nets performed too important a safety function to be removed.

"The whale's direction only has to be a little bit off track and they get caught up, but unfortunately they are a necessary evil,'' Mr McDade said. Mr McDade has not seen any whales off the Coast yet but they will become a regular sight in the weeks and months ahead.

Sunshine Coast Environment Council project officer Lindsay Holt believes the nets do more harm than good and should be removed. "There are alternatives ways of keeping people safe from shark attacks,'' Mr Holt said. “ The extent of sea life they kill is far too great.

"Dolphins and many other creatures get caught up as well.'' According to the State Government, the net system is designed to catch sharks of more than two metres and cause the least possible bycatch with their 500 millimetre mesh stretched about 186 metres. "The program has been in operation for more than 41 years and has been remarkably successful. No fatal shark attack has occurred on a protected beach in that time,'' according to the netting program website.

The nets also have electronic devices designed to help warn whales. A $500,000 research program is looking at netting alternatives including electro-magnetic shark repulsion devices.

According to Mr McDade the number of humpbacks making the journey north from Antarctica to calf was increasing