HUNTER and Central Coast shark nets are trapping more non-target marine life, such as turtles, rays and dolphins, in an effort to keep the regions' beaches safe.
The netting program that covers beaches from Stockton to Wollongong was introduced to protect swimmers from great white, tiger and bull sharks.
However the Department of Primary Industries' latest annual report shows six non-target shark species were caught in nets positioned off 14 Hunter and Central Coast beaches between September to April.
A total of 168 marine creatures were caught in the nets, up 21 per cent on the previous year.
They included grey nurse, bronze whaler, thresher and mako sharks.
In addition, dolphins, green turtles, rays and kingfish were also caught.
About sixty percent of the creatures trapped died.
The Hunter - Central Coast figures mirror the state figures that show 480 animals were caught in 51 nets.
Of the 480 animals trapped last season, only 50 were targeted sharks, mostly whites.
Humane Society International and the Australian Marine Conservation Society have called for an end to the shark meshing program.
"We need to call time on the shark nets. NSW DPI has made great progress in developing alternative tools to manage the risk of shark bite such as drone surveillance, personal shark deterrents, and education-all of which are much more effective at protecting ocean users than nets and without the heavy toll on marine wildlife," Humane Society International marine biologist Lawrence Chlebeck said
"The NSW Government recently committed to expand drone surveillance across additional NSW beaches. The shark nets are unnecessary and this new wildlife death tally should surely be the last straw."
Australian Marine Conservation Society shark scientist Dr Leonardo Guida said the stress and injury associated with entanglement meant many of the animals that were released would die.
"Shark nets were removed along the North Coast of NSW because the local communities opposed the unacceptable wildlife death toll. Newcastle, Sydney, and Wollongong need to do the same. We ask the NSW Government to continue their progress and bring an end to the nets," he said.
Primary Industries minister Adam Marshall said public safety remained the government's top priority.
"The NSW government takes a holistic approach to protecting beach goers from sharks, which includes traditional methods such as meshing as well as modern drone and shark tagging programs," he said,
The DPI annual report also shows that sightings of sharks by surf lifesavers at Hunter Beaches increased to 18, up from four the previous year.
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