Environment advocates have potentially exposed swimmers to shark attacks by slashing protective nets 14 times in the past five years.
In some instances, shark nets were dragged kilometres from where they were installed, according to The Daily Telegraph.
The report came as a fisherman posted a video to social media showing a white pointer about 500m from Long Reef on Sydney’s northern beaches.
It is believed environmentalists opposed to the use of shark nets may be responsible for damaging the barriers, which reportedly included one cut “from top to bottom” on Marouba in 2013.
Since 2008, at least 222 “target” sharks have been caught in nets – including 47 great whites, five bull sharks and 16 tiger sharks.
There have been no fatal shark attacks off the 51 netted beaches between Wollongong and Newcastle for more than 50 years and just one fatality was recorded off a netted beach since the program began in 1937.
The nets are ‘sunk nets’ set below the surface in about 10 to 12 metres of water, within 500 metres of the shore.
“We know the NSW shark meshing program has been effective in helping to provide a safer environment for bathers for nearly 80 years,” Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair told The Daily Telegraph.
In an interview with 9NEWS, fisherman Camm Sutherland said he filmed the shark with a GoPro after it tugged on a fishing line.
“First I thought it was a whale … and then realised it was a white pointer,” he said.
“I was a bit scared at first, then I noticed it was not aggressive at all, it was pretty laidback.”
The New South Wales Government invests $1.4 million annually in the shark netting program.