Sea Life Sydney Aquarium staff say shark nets are a threat to marine conservation

SEA Life Sydney Aquarium staff are diving into the Coogee Island Challenge to raise awareness of the issue of shark nets and the threats to marine conservation.

Sea Life conservation fund manager Claudette Rechtorik said the NSW Shark Meshing Program was not in the best interests of marine conservation or swimmer safety and the nets do not act as a complete barrier to sharks reaching beaches as they are not permanently set in the water.

Ms Rechtorik said about 40 per cent of shark entanglements took place on the beach side of the nets, because sharks are able to swim over and around the nets.

She said all shark control programs based on beach meshing and drum lines also report high numbers of non-target species being caught and killed, including whales, turtles, dugong, dolphins and non-target sharks.

By participating in the race, Sea Life would like to draw people’s attention to the issue and get them thinking about the threats to sea creatures.

Money raised from their swim will go towards their campaign against Western Australia’s controversial shark-baiting program.

“It’s about raising awareness about shark nets and drum lines in WA,’’ she said.

“We are lobbying the government to review this urgently and to provide research evidence that deploying drum lines and shark nets will increase shark safety.

“There’s no scientific evidence to show this.’’

A team of 10 from Sea Life will swim in the ocean swim and they are hoping it will be an opportunity to educate ocean swimmers about shark safety.

Ms Rechtorik said there were alternatives to using shark nets including shark shields which send off electrical pulses to repel sharks.

“Killing sharks is not the answer and there are other alternatives out there,’’ she said.

The Coogee Island Challenge ocean swim on April 13 won’t be the first time Sea Life staff have been in the southeast ocean.

In February, Sea Life staff were involved in the dramatic rescue of an endangered grey nurse shark at Magic Point near Maroubra beach

The 1.5m shark was spotted by a local diver with its head and gills tangled in an elastic bungee-type cord.