Whales have been sighted at Fingal Head, some are asking for shark nets to be removed.
Whales have been sighted at Fingal Head, some are asking for shark nets to be removed. Peter Comerford

Whales sighted, should shark nets be removed?

THE sighting of a humpback whale off the coast last week has sparked calls for the immediate removal of shark nets from our beaches.

Tweed Seasports owner Peter Comerford snapped a photo of the humpback last Thursday during a dive trip at Nine Mile Reef east of Fingal Head.

Following the sighting Sea Shepherd has ramped up its calls for an end to the shark meshing program.

Sea Shepherd spokeswoman Allyson Jennings said the nets were removed earlier than planned last year due to the whale migration.

"If the nets are accessible, they should be coming out immediately," Ms Jennings said.

Ms Jennings said there were several whale entanglements each year in Queensland where the nets were deployed year-round.

A juvenile humpback died in Sydney in 2013 after it became entangled in a shark net off Mona Vale.

A DPI spokeswoman said in a statement the department was "continuing to monitor the whale migration" jointly with the Office of Environment and Heritage.

The DPI is currently trialling shark nets for the second season running off Lighthouse, Sharpes, and Shelly beaches in Ballina, Seven Mile Beach at Lennox Head, and Evans Head.

"The DPI has maintained the trial will end early if required to mitigate potential impacts on whales during their northern migration," the spokeswoman said.

"Last year the North Coast net trial concluded two weeks earlier than anticipated due to an increase in whale sightings along the NSW coastline."

Ms Jennings said nets were designed to "provide the illusion of public safety" but "there was no evidence to support shark nets working".

Said the data collected so far was only confirming what they already knew - the nets "should have never been put in in the first place".

The first shark net trial caught nine target species, and 266 non-target species, including 26 hammerhead sharks, more than 100 rays, and 11 turtles, five of which died.

"The NSW Government must abandon this trial and implement effective non-lethal measures for ocean user safety and to protect the marine life many people visit the region to see," Ms Jennings said.