'Belong in last century': shark nets return to beaches

The NSW premier says there are no viable alternatives to shark nets for keeping swimmers safe as he defends returning the controversial measures to beaches.

The state will set up 51 shark nets between Wollongong and Newcastle, including at many of Sydney's most popular beaches, for the 86th year in a row from Friday despite opposition from conservationists and many local councils.

Premier Chris Minns said calls from opponents to use technology such as drumlines and drones instead of the so-called "walls of death" were laudable, but those measures were not advanced enough to replace the century-old netting approach.

"If you look at the alternatives that are available on Sydney beaches, they're not going to be as effective as existing shark nets in place," he said on Friday.

Environmental groups, coastal councils and cross-party politicians have called on the premier to retire nets, saying they don't make the public any safer. 

Action for Dolphins chief executive Hannah Tait said the government was already using modern shark management measures widely and effectively across NSW.

"Relying on a shark net to mitigate a shark bite is as effective as placing a tissue on your head and hoping it will protect you in a hailstorm," she said.

Greens MP Cate Faehrmann called on the premier to work with and fund councils to roll out modern solutions.

“Shark nets belong in the last century," she said.

"They provide people with a false sense of security with many sharks and other animals caught in the beach side of the net."

The government was internally warned in August community groups and a large swathe of the public preferred other measures over shark nets before it recommitted to them for another year.

Labor went into the March election promising to phase them out.

Official data shows the nets catch few targeted white and tiger sharks and that most animals caught, including turtles, are threatened or protected species.

Only 24 of the 228 animals caught in the 2022/23 netting season were the targeted sharks.

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