Protesters perform a ritual at Noosa’s Main Beach.
Protesters perform a ritual at Noosa’s Main Beach. Geoff Potter

Nasty netting angers activists

SINCE they were hung out off our Coast beaches 50 years ago, shark nets have caused a frenzy of controversy.

And on Wednesday an anti-shark net protest sailed in Noosa to stir up the tranquil waters of Laguna Bay.

Noosa was notorious back in 1961 when a shark bit the leg off 22-year-old John Andrews, killing him. The Noosa Heads SLSC history, Bush to Beach, carries photos from that era with lifesavers patrolling in the watch tower armed with a rifle to keep the "man eaters" at bay.

All this is part of the unfounded paranoia surrounding sharks and the netting program, according to anti-shark net campaigner Dean Jefferys, who anchored his protest ketch the Migaloo 2 off Main Beach.

"The thing is that shark nets don't work - that's the bottom line," Mr Jefferys said after meeting up with local shark net protesters.

"In fact they have the opposite effect - they attract sharks because they catch the by-catch.

"Basically you're up against the tourism industry who feels it's important to convince tourists that the beaches are safe."

Mr Jefferys said east coast beaches are safer than roads and even standing alongside soft drink dispensing machines.

"You've got more chance of dying from a Coke machine falling on you or a bee sting than a shark attack," Mr Jefferys said.

"It started with Jaws and is perpetrated every time a shark attacks a human anywhere around the world."

According to his data, since the early 1960s to the 1990s shark nets entangled 216 dolphins, 2140 turtles and 552 dugongs.

And it is the migrating whales he is concerned about right now, as they will be coming closer to shore on their return journey to rest the calves.

He said 29 whales had been caught in shark nets since 2000 and, even though 26 had been successfully freed, some had died of their wounds.

New acoustic alarms are being trialled on the Gold Coast and Rainbow Beach north of the Sunshine Coast to help reduce the number of dolphins that are caught in shark control equipment.

The Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol has announced the initial success of trials of special dolphin alarms called pingers on shark nets off Rainbow Beach and the Gold Coast. Since pingers have been attached to two of the three Rainbow Beach nets in April, shark control program manager Jeff Krause said no dolphins had been caught.

Coast council lifeguard manager Scott Braby said from the long-term experience of local lifeguards, he believed the shark nets had a significant shark deterrent effect.

"It does seem to keep sharks away from the popular beaches, and that's what you want," Mr Braby said.

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