Queensland's Evolving Shark Control Measures

Tuesday, 04 Feb, 2020

Recently, the Queensland Government reintroduced its shark control measures to parts of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. This includes traditional baited hook drumlines that will now be checked daily for 260 days per year, as required under new conditions set by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. New technologies such as drones and SMART drumlines may follow.

Under the new shark control measures:

- Traditional drumlines will be rolled out again within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP).  According to the permit there is a maximum of 131 baited drumlines permitted at any one time and this is a temporary move pending a SMART drumline trial. 

- No nets will be installed in the GBRMP. This is not allowed under the permit and has been the case since 2017.

- The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries is actively considering barriers at some beaches. This may include stinger nets.

- A Shark Management Alert in Real Time (SMART) drumline trial is coming. Learn more about SMART drumlines 

- The GBRMPA permit makes no requirement for SMART drumlines to be checked more frequently than 24 hours. This may change as the Government settles on the details of the trial. In other states, SMART drumlines are required to be checked within 30min of a catch.

- These measures will have a very large impact on the budget for the Queensland Shark Control Program. Changes to the program are being supported by five million dollars from the Federal Government.

The measures announced by both state and federal governments have some merits. However, Sea Shepherd has some serious concerns. 

While Federal funding will 'help support Queensland’s transition to non-lethal shark control measures’, the redeployment of traditional drumlines will do little to nothing in protecting swimmers and will ensure the continued destruction of marine creatures. 

Under Queensland's new shark control measures, target species within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park will be reduced from 19 to 3 - a reduction that won’t mitigate captures entirely but will prevent the deliberate killing of 16 species of shark – all of which are critical to marine ecosystems on which Great Barrier Reef tourism is built.

Sea Shepherd believes that a move to SMART drumlines has some merit where the drumlines are used for scientific research - a system underscored by rigorous animal ethics standards. 

Sea Shepherd's concerns also extend to the lack of oversight of the work of contractors in the Queensland Shark Control Program. Cameras installed on contractor vessels would go some way in providing transparency of the program and some assurance that contractors are indeed capable of making proper decisions about the welfare of wildlife caught.

The Queensland Government’s 20m exclusion zone around Shark Control Program equipment essentially mandates zero transparency over a tax-payer funded effort that should see an ability for public observation.

"Sea Shepherd holds concerns over some ambiguities, for example; ‘rebates to councils to install swimmer safety netting’. It is not clear what is meant by swimmer safety netting. Sea Shepherd supports the use of genuine barrier technology such as the Eco-Shark Barrier, a Western Australian invention that is effective in low energy beach environments.”

Operation Apex Harmony Campaign Coordinator Jonathan Clark

Sea Shepherd has been advocating a five-point plan to use non-lethal methods of shark bite mitigation. Drones using AI software and spectral imaging in suitably clear waters is at the top of this list, in addition to a comprehensive education program to be aimed at tourism operators, tourists and local water users. The Whitsundays may benefit from a well placed shark barrier, such as the Eco-Shark Barrier from Western Australia, which could provide a completely safe swimming area at an appropriate beach.

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