Sharks caught in set nets raise concern for water users

Set netters are blamed for six dead sharks washed up at Matakatia Bay, North Auckland.
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Set netters are blamed for six dead sharks washed up at Matakatia Bay, North Auckland.

Six thresher sharks washed up on a Hibiscus Coast beach have raised concerns for beach goers who say set netters were in the area the night before.

The sharks were up to two metres in size and found on rocks on the eastern end of Matakatia Bay on Saturday morning.

Resident Bob McNaughton says set nets were being laid at around 1pm on Friday afternoon and cleared 12 hours later. He believes the nets were baited.

Ministry of Fisheries codes ban the baiting of set nets.

"The sharks were mutilated and left on the beach above the low water mark to rot," McNaughton says.

Fourteen net anchors made from sacks and industrial chemical bags filled with sand and rocks were also left behind which McNaughton and neighbours cleared from the beach. The Auckland Council was called.

Residents have complained about set netters using the beach on a weekly basis and the dangers they pose to beach users.

McNaughton wants the council to take action with bylaw regulations on the practice.

A seasonal ban on the nets was imposed at nearby Shakespear Regional Park and Army Bay last summer and a total ban at Arkles Bay has been in place since 2006.

The council is reviewing set net practice under the Public Safety and Nuisance bylaw.

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Prior to the sharks being found, the council resolved to monitor Matakatia Bay and several other beaches after complaints from residents.

Albany ward councillor John Watson says the presence of small sharks around set nets could mean larger sharks will also be attracted.

He says the nets also pose a risk to swimmers, with reports of 13 people caught in them over several summers.

"It is not scaremongering or a theoretical threat," Watson says. "It has happened and the real concern is that someone will drown."

Fellow councillor Wayne Walker says he has seen photos of young children swimming next to nets at Matakatia blissfully unaware of the dangers.

"It's really time the council used its powers under this bylaw to intervene in the interests of public safety," he says.

In January chicken carcasses were picked up by residents along Omaha beach with around 40 found floating in the shallows where children were swimming. The chicken is used as bait for crab fishing, which is legal.

Bronze whaler sharks are known to come closer in the surf line at Omaha in early summer and are often seen in shallow water hunting kahawai. 

 - Stuff

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