More than 80 per cent of sharks caught in nets off Hunter and Central Coast beaches between 2009 and 2019 died before they could be released, new Department of Primary Industries data shows.
That is despite the vast majority of the sharks not being classified as a threat to humans.
The shark netting program, introduced along NSW beaches in the 1930s, also trapped and killed hundreds of other marine species such as rays, dolphins, turtles and fin fish.
The data, released as part of a review into the effectiveness of shark mitigation measures, also shows that technology such as drone and shark listening devices are proving to be a more effective and environmentally sustainable way of keeping swimmers safe.
The five year, $16million statewide program tested and trialled a range of new and traditional measures, including drones, helicopters, listening stations, SMART drumlines and shark nets.
Traditional shark netting used at Newcastle and Central Coast beaches between 2009 and 2019 resulted in the capture of 379 sharks. Target species included great whites (66), bull sharks (4) and Tiger sharks (2).
The remaining 307 were non-target shark species.
The data also reveals 510 rays, 13 dolphins, 32 turtles and 10 fin fish were trapped.
"[Shark netting] is the least liked shark mitigation method due to socially unacceptable levels of bycatch and mortality," a DPI summary of community attitudes to shark nets says.
"[Shark nets] are ineffective at catching target sharks."
Numerous environmental groups are also campaigning to end the use of shark nets.
"We need to call time on the shark nets," Humane Society International marine biologist Lawrence Chlebeck said.
"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."
"We applaud some non-lethal aspects of the NSW program, including drone surveillance, but shark meshing and netting must end," the petition says.
"This was first installed in 1937, only covers a tiny portion of any beach, does not even go up to the ocean surface, and kills sharks and many other animals whilst failing to keep people safe."
Ten SMART drumlines were also deployed between Stockton and Merewether beaches between February and December 2019.
The drumlines captured, seven great white sharks, one tiger shark and nine non-target species, one of which died
The department summary noted drumlines were better than shark nets because they caught more target sharks and less bycatch.
However, there are concerns the devices attract sharks as well as cause significant stress to the animals during the capture, tag and release process.
Drones were employed at Birubi Beach at Port Stephens between December 2018 to April 2019. The technology detected nine sharks resulting in two beach evacuations.
Drones were also used at Redhead Beach during November 2018 and March 2019. One shark was sighted but the beach was not evacuated.
In addition to detecting sharks, drones can sound sirens to warn swimmers and surfers if a shark is in the area, and also help lifesavers to identify swimmers in distress.
"Drone shark surveillance is the most supported and preferred mitigation approach across all coastal regions," the DPI summary of community feedback said.
'[Drones are] seen as the future of not just shark management but beach and ocean safety.
"Overall, excellent value for money, and a cheaper option and more environmentally friendly than helicopters."
Shark listening stations, which use radar technology to detect tagged sharks, were used at Bennetts Beach and Redhead Beach.
During the 163 days when the technology was in place at Bennetts Beach, there were 14,988 detections including 90 great whites and eight bull sharks.
The listening stations made 290 detections at Redhead beach during the 34 days it was used there.
The detections included 56 great white and five bull sharks.
"Listening stations are valued for real-time detection of tagged sharks but are only helpful if you are at at beach that has one," the feedback summary said.
"Effectiveness of listening stations is dependent on the number of tagged sharks. Currently only a small proportion of potentially dangerous sharks are tagged."
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The State Government will spend $8 million in 2020/21 on a new strategy to protect beachgoers from sharks.
The program includes drone surveillance at 34 key swimming locations, 35 SMART drumlines in high risk locations on the North Coast, 21 listening stations along the coastline and the continuation of the Shark Meshing Bather Protection program.
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