CAPTION: CLANSTHAL residents, Pam Forsythe (CORR), holds one of the three rugby-field-size shark nets that came adrift this week on the KZN south coast. One net has yet to be recovered. Picture: Supplied

Durban - A visiting marine expert has criticised the KZN Sharks Board for failing to remove nets on the South Coast after three washed ashore in heavy seas this week.

The board confirmed that one of the nets, which is about the length of a rugby field, was still adrift off T O Strand near Port Edward, while another was snagged on the rocks in the marine reserve at Clansthal.

Marine biologist Phanor Montoya-Maya a Colombian national studying for a doctorate at UKZN who recovered one of the nets, said they posed a hazard to humpback whales now migrating up the coast.

The net snagged on the rocks at Clansthal also posed a threat to surfers, he said.

“It really is very big. It is about 100m long. That’s about the length of a rugby field. If a surfer ducks into a wave and gets caught it will be very difficult to get out.

“It is very dangerous for spear fishermen too. It is the whale season now, the humpback whales are migrating north.”

Montoya-Maya questioned why the nets were not removed as the recent heavy swells had been forecast. “I don’t understand why they were not removed. This could have been avoided,” he said.

The shark board’s Mike Anderson-Reade confirmed the nets were adrift but defended the decision to leave them in place during the heavy weather.

“Shark safety gear can generally withstand large surf conditions. However, when large seas are accompanied by strong inshore currents, the gear may move out of position.”

He said out of all the nets affixed along the coast from the south to as far north as uMhlanga, only the three had moved.

“It is our business to decide when to lift the nets. We monitor the weather on seven different weather stations. The rest didn’t move. We can’t keep pulling the nets up.

“The municipality would say ‘come on guys, what are you doing?’ It is a hard call. Sometimes we get it right and sometimes we get it wrong. But that’s our prerogative,” he said.

Anderson-Reade urged the public to keep a lookout for the nets in the surf or on the beach and to contact them on 031 566 0400 if they were found. - The Mercury