The Silent Killer: The True Impact of Shark Culling in Australia

Tuesday, 28 Jun, 2022

Over 100,000 animals caught

With a casualty list of over 100,000* and growing every single day, 90% of animals caught in Australia’s shark culling programs are not target species. This includes whales, dolphins, turtles, rays and even seals and penguins.


Queensland and New South Wales don’t want you to see behind the scenes, so we’ve unearthed images from within the program and crunched the numbers to show the true impact of shark culling. This is the story of the animals that die everyday for the sake of a false sense of security. This is the story the government doesn’t want you to hear.


*13 years of catch data from New South Wales is missing from this number. 

Every year, migrating whales become entangled in deadly shark nets and drumlines and sadly, dolphins are regular victims of these cruel and outdated technologies too. 

The catch number only includes whales and dolphins officially recorded in both programs and should be considered the bare minimum. For instance, from the 2016/17-2020/21 shark meshing seasons, New South Wales only recorded two whale entanglements in its Annual Reports; those same reports recorded 37 instances of damage to shark nets attributed to whales, meaning a whale had come into contact with the net and freed itself before notice.

This means the true catch statistic of whales caught over this time period should be 39: a 1850% increase in catch.

Queensland does not keep public records of whale damage caused to shark nets.

Tragically, shark nets and drumlines pose a huge threat to turtles. In 2021, data revealed that a turtle was killed in a New South Wales shark net every 20 days

Around the world, six of the seven sea turtle species are classified as threatened or endangered due to human actions. These incredible and ancient marine animals need protection. 

Australia has 132 ray species in our ocean territory, with many of these found nowhere else on the planet.

Ranging from solitary individuals to entire fevers, rays are common victims found in shark nets. 

The fact that over 22,000 of these incredible animals have died as a result of shark nets is horrifying.

Queensland has a target list of 19 shark species for shark culling, whereas NSW today targets three. All but one of these species are listed on the IUCN Red List. On top of these target lists, numerous other shark species such as Scalloped Hammerheads, Grey Nurse, Wobbegong and Whale Sharks to name a few are caught and killed by entanglement or stress.

Unborn pups killed and those that are aborted prematurely due to the stress a mother goes through during entanglement, are not included in official catch statistics. Using Freedom of Information requests, Sea Shepherd was able to obtain the raw catch logs for NSW and Queensland since 1950 and 1962, and were able to count how many pups were recorded in the comments. Queensland stopped mentioning pups in the mid 1990s, whereas NSW only started mentioning them sporadically from the 90s.

Due to the indiscriminate design of shark nets and drumlines, any type of species that interacts with the ocean is able to become entangled or are attracted to drumlines.

Historical data has shown the capture of species such as crocodiles through to dugongs, seals, birds, sea snakes, penguins and manta rays to name a few.

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