WARNING - CONFRONTING IMAGES: A dolphin has been found dead in a NSW government shark net overnight at Bronte Beach, in calm waters off Sydney's affluent eastern suburbs.
The animal, believed to be a juvenile, was discovered this morning by drone operator Jason Iggleten who told Yahoo News Australia he spotted it just after sunrise.
“It’s not nice to see,” he said.
Sea Shepherd Australia’s Lauren Sanderman confirmed at 11:30am that the dolphin was still in the net, saying underwater footage of the incident is “horrific”.
In a statement she questioned why the NSW Government continues to use the nets when at just 150 metres in length they cannot prevent sharks from entering beaches. "They are not a barrier. They are merely a fishing device. Today they are dolphin killers," she said.
NSW Government urged to end 'misguided' shark net program
Humane Society International’s shark expert Lawrence Chlebeck said “this kind of thing” happens all of the time and it’s “such a shame” that dolphins, rays and turtles continue to be inadvertently caught in the netting.
“Not only do shark nets have a high wildlife cost, they also make no difference in improving public safety. Even worse, when dead and dying animals like this dolphin are left in nets they’re potential attracting sharks to the shore,” he claimed.
A review of the state's shark net program concluded that of the 300 animals caught in its 51 shark nets during the 2021/2022 season, only 51 were target species. Conservationists have repeatedly called on the government to remove the nets and fast-track a roll-out of non-lethal alternatives like drones.
These nets are nothing but a placebo and their misguided use bring nothing but constant suffering to precious marine life," Mr Chlebeck added. "We have the technology in place to remove the nets for good, the NSW Government needs to show leadership and end this cruelty now.”
Online outrage after NSW Government's shark nets kill dolphin
Followers of Mr Iggleten's DroneSharkApp Instagram page responded with anger at the continuation of the government's shark net program after he shared footage of the dead dolphin with the caption, "I'm overcome with emotion right now".
"This is so unfair that such a beautiful innocent animal had to experience such a scary and horrible ending," one person wrote.
"Take out the nets! We go in the ocean daily. We know the risks. It’s their home not ours," another added.
"So sad! It might be the same dolphin that was entertaining all of us on Thursday morning," someone else suggested.
Government says it plans to remove dolphin from net
At nearby Bondi, the ocean was packed with swimmers, drawn to the popular beach by calm waters and temperatures in the high twenties. A number of beachgoers spoken to by Yahoo News Australia said they were unaware the beach had shark nets or that there was a dolphin wrapped tightly in one nearby.
Just after 2pm the NSW department of primary industries, which is responsible for managing the netting program, issued a statement to Yahoo News Australia saying it was arranging contractors to remove the dolphin, "as soon as sea conditions allow".
It said the reason the animal died is still unknown. "If possible, the dolphin will be transferred to Taronga Zoo for a necropsy to determine the cause of death," a spokesperson said.
"As part of the NSW Shark Meshing Program, frequent inspections are carried out by contractors to minimise the impact on non-target species," it added. "These inspections are combined with a range of technology including dolphin ‘pingers’ and whale ‘alarms’ to deter marine mammals from the nets."
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