Drone operator's 'devastating' discovery off Bondi Beach

The drone operator who discovered the dead dolphin told Yahoo News it was a 'tragic waste' of life.

A drone operator has made a grim discovery off Australia’s iconic Bondi Beach on Wednesday morning. Around 300 metres out to sea, well past the swimmers and surfers, a dolphin was discovered dead inside a shark net which had been set by NSW Government contractors.

The footage was shared by Jason Iggleton to the 200,000 Instagram users who follow his DroneSharkApp account, which documents the marine life thriving off Sydney’s eastern beaches.

“Another dolphin. You’re kidding me… I cannot believe this” he says during his broadcast. Having seen a dolphin fall victim to the controversial nets last year, finding another one today has left him frustrated.

“It’s devastating to witness — knowing that the shark nets in my view are just pointless – They’re just traps,” he told Yahoo News. “It’s a waste of a dolphin's life. I love dolphins. The dolphin would have suffered horrendously as well.”

A row of people looking at the water with the sand in the foreground at Bondi Beach.
Most tourists who visit Bondi Beach are unaware of the devastation shark nets cause. Source: Michael Dahlstrom

Related: Aussie fisherman brought to tears after shock catch in shark net

Contrary to what many swimmers believe, shark nets do not stretch across the entire length of the beach. Conservation group Envoy Foundation has described them as “comically small”, and they are only set at 51 beaches from September to the end of April between Newcastle and Wollongong.

  • Nets are just six metres high, so when they are erected offshore at a depth of 10 metres, sharks are able to swim over them.

  • Nets are only 150m wide, so on wide beaches, sharks can swim around them.

Do shark nets actually work?

Nets are designed to protect swimmers by stopping sharks establishing territories, but their effectiveness is hotly debated.

Two images (one close, the other far away) of a boat next to the shark killed in the shark nets.
A dolphin found dead in shark nets off Bondi Beach on Wednesday. Source: Dronesharkapp

Figures from the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) show that since the shark net program began in 1937 there has been only one human fatality across the state’s 51 meshed beaches. However, it’s worth noting nets are only used at beaches patrolled by lifeguards, who are adept at spotting sharks and rescuing attack victims.

The NSW Labor government has previously indicated it would support a reassessment of nets with a view to rolling out evidence-based changes. There are several alternatives to nets including drones which can be used to spot sharks out at sea, and Iggleton would like to see them trialled at Bondi Beach.

“There’s just no one brave enough to make the decision to pull them out,” he said. “I’m not sure how we’re ever going to get past this,” he said.

“The problem is if they take the nets down, and someone gets bitten, they’ll say its because they pulled the nets down. But that will be absolute rubbish.”

Authorities respond to dolphin death

Following the discovery of the dead dolphin, the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) which implements the government's shark net program issued a statement.

"(DPI) contractors retrieved a deceased dolphin from the Bondi Beach shark net this morning," it said.

"The 2.15m Bottlenose Dolphin was removed from the net as part of regular Shark Meshing Program protocols. Biological samples were taken from the dolphin for analysis and the carcass was towed out to sea and disposed of as per Management Plan procedures.

"The government supports ongoing research, trials, and the development of new technologies to protect swimmers from shark attack."

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