Almost triple the number of marine animals have died in shark nets deployed along the NSW north coast in the second month of the controversial trial.
Just one of the 72 animals caught in the newly installed nets off Ballina – a great white shark – was among the NSW government’s targeted species in the most recent trial period.
A bottlenose dolphin, six manta rays and two turtles were also killed in the nets, along with nine hammerhead sharks.
The Department of Primary Industries recorded 32 animal deaths in the second trial period – running between January 8 and February 7 – compared to 12 deaths month earlier.
Of the 153 animals caught in the first two months of the six month trial, five of them were target shark species, a 4.3 per cent strike rate.
NSW Greens MP Justin Field said the net trial was little more than a culling program for marine animals and called on the government to end it.
“NSW can do better than a shark net mesh program that provides a false sense of security for swimmers but has a huge impact on our wildlife and budget,” Mr Field said.
Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair admitted the program was not a “silver bullet” and said the government would closely monitor the results each month and consult with the community.
“Our aim has not changed, we are committed to finding the best measures available to minimise the risk of a shark attack while also limiting the impact on marine life,” he said in a statement to AAP.
Two types of information will be used to evaluate the six-month trial.
“Firstly, how effective are the nets at catching target sharks with minimal impact on other marine animals,” a department spokeswoman told AAP.
“Secondly, how acceptable the approach is to the community in terms of reducing risk of shark bites,” she said.
The shark net trial was prompted by three attacks along the northern NSW coast in six weeks late last year.
The nets are 150 metres long and and six metres deep and sit below the surface of the water at five beaches around Ballina and Lennox Head.