Marine life are being left to die in NSW shark nets despite authorities knowing about it, according to environmental group Sea Shepherd.
Two live eagle rays were found by environmentalists entangled in shark nets off Sharpes and Lighthouse beaches near Ballina on the NSW north coast on Sunday.
Sea Shepherd, which also found a dead manta ray near a net at nearby Lennox Head, said it contacted local authorities to see if they could free the live animals but were told they would be left to die.
“It’s not the first non-target animal we have found, but despite being notified, Fisheries have said they won’t release these animals and instead leave them to die,” Sea Shepherd spokesman Jonathon Clarke said in a statement.
A NSW Primary Industries Department spokeswoman confirmed the department was contacted by Sea Shepherd about a sting ray caught in its North Coast Net Trial.
Asked why the rays were not freed, the spokeswoman said it was important the trail proceed “as per plans” to allow for the best possible data.
The net trial is the second in the area, using a different net design to try and reduce by-catch.
The first trial, which ran from early December 2016 to late May 2017, caught 275 animals, according to DPI.
Of the 275 animals that were caught, nine were target sharks, meaning the nets had just over a three per cent strike rate.
Of the nine target species – which are white, tiger and bull sharks – four were released alive.
Four bottlenose dolphins, two loggerhead turtles and three green turtles were caught and died in the nets, according to DPI data.
Meanwhile rays made up almost 70 per cent of the by-catch.