Fresh calls to remove shark nets after 'desperate struggle' off Sydney beach

Drone footage shows a fisherman trying to free a huge turtle tangled in a Sydney shark net reigniting the debate to have the nets removed.

A boat owner’s desperate attempt to free a large leatherback turtle from a Sydney shark net has prompted fresh calls to remove them from Aussie beaches.

In the video captured by Lewis Loughlin, a local photographer known as Carved Banks, the man in a boat off Maroubra can be seen attempting to save the marine creature.

Using what appears to be a hand knife, he saws frantically at the binds that have trapped the turtle, before furiously pulling on the rope.

The man in the boat cutting the rope (left) and pulling at the rope (right) with the turtle picture in the net at Maroubra.
A man was filmed frantically trying to free the leatherback turtle from the shark net at Maroubra, 12 kilometres southeast of Sydney Source: Instagram/Carved Banks

“A desperate struggle for breath as this innocent giant leatherback turtle is entangled in the shark nets off Maroubra beach early this morning,” Mr Loughlin wrote on Thursday.

Finally the man succeeds and the turtle swims free underneath the boat and back down into the ocean. Gripping the side of the vessel, he watches the turtle go before looking up towards the drone camera in celebration.

“Fortunately this turtle struggled his way to freedom with the great help of this quick responding worker,” the photographer added. “Any longer and it would have suffocated to death. A lucky ending but not always for many others.”

Released turtle may still not survive

The incident has reignited debate around the use of shark nets and the risk they pose to all marine life.

“This turtle would have died a slow painful death if it was not released, in fact it still may succumb” Andre Borell, the Founder of Envoy Foundation, told Yahoo News Australia.

“[It] is almost certain to have cuts and lacerations from the net, and also may now have water in the lungs. Both could still turn out to be lethal. Released does not mean survived.”

Mr Borell went on to point out that the NSW Threatened Species Scientific Committee recently raised concerns the shark netting programme poses an extinction level risk for some critically endangered species.

Turtles caught in nets.
The Envoy Foundation says turtles caught in nets may suffer fatal injuries. Source: NSW DPI via Envoy Foundation

“There is no place for shark nets in a modern society or a modern beach safety program,” he said. “They have not reduced shark bites [and] they are not a barrier that keeps sharks separated from people. There are so many better options, backed by science and the community, that should replace them. It is without a doubt time for the nets to be scrapped.”

The NSW Government’s Shark Meshing Program, which aims to reduce the chance of shark encounters, includes 51 beaches between Newcastle and Wollongong.

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