SHARK PROTECTION: The shark control program will be reestablished with drumlines going back into the water to catch tiger sharks like this one caught at Magnetic Island last March.
SHARK PROTECTION: The shark control program will be reestablished with drumlines going back into the water to catch tiger sharks like this one caught at Magnetic Island last March.

Solution to shark control issue found for Capricorn Coast

SWIMMERS, tourists and tourism operators alike are breathing a sigh of relief after a political solution was finally found to reinstate a shark control program along the Capricorn Coast.

For almost five months this region has sat dangerously exposed without 53 shark protecting drumlines in place due to a court decision and a protracted political blame game between the state and federal governments.

The Australian Government has committed $5 million to the Queensland Government to improve swimmer safety in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park between south of Gladstone to north of Cairns within the park.

The money will go towards reinstalling standard shark drumlines, helping to invest in modern technologies to mitigate the risk of shark attacks, and the transition to a shark control program which is consistent with the requirements of the courts.

Queensland Government will look to adopt modern technologies including smart drum lines, drone surveillance, swimmer education and safety netting, while it also reintroduces its standard drum lines.

SMART Drumlines trialled at Gracetown in Western Australia’s southwest.
SMART Drumlines trialled at Gracetown in Western Australia’s southwest.

Capricornia MP Michelle Landry said the public was only interested in outcomes, not finger pointing between governments.

"That is why we have worked hard to resolve this process and the Federal Government has provided considerable funding to help get that agreement in place," Ms Landry said.

"The Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries intends to redeploy about 120 drumlines in the Marine Park by mid-February."

Fisheries Minister Mark Furner confirmed the 53 local drumlines would be returned in the coming weeks.

Minister for Agriculture Mark Furner with Rockhampton Region mayor Margaret Strelow.
Minister for Agriculture Mark Furner with Rockhampton Region mayor Margaret Strelow.

"This is a great outcome for swimmer safety and a great outcome for the region's tourism operators," Mr Furner said.

"The new permit issued by GBRMPA allows for the health and safety of our staff and contractors, and ensures the drumlines returned to the water will be checked more regularly.

"There will also be a trial of SMART drumlines, in areas identified by the scientific reports, in accordance with the Federal permit, and investment in other shark safety technologies and processes."

Keppel MP Brittany Lauga said this was the outcome that everyone wanted - drumlines back along the Capricornia Coast keeping swimmers and tourists safe at our most popular beaches.

DRUMLINE STATISTICS: Shark Control Program shark catch numbers by species for Capricorn Coast in 2017.
DRUMLINE STATISTICS: Shark Control Program shark catch numbers by species for Capricorn Coast in 2017.

The initial $4 million will help support Queensland's transition to nonlethal shark control measures with further costs to be assessed as the Queensland Government implements:

• SMART drumline trials.

• Rebates to councils to install swimmer safety netting.

• Piloting drone surveillance

• Swimmer education.

A great white shark caught on a SMART drumline off the beach at Tathra during the latest trial on the south coast.
A great white shark caught on a SMART drumline off the beach at Tathra during the latest trial on the south coast.

This program will comply with the decision of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, upheld by the Federal Court, while protecting swimmers - ensuring visitors can once again feel safe.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has been working closely with Queensland's Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, on the rollout of a compliant shark control program inside the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park as quickly as possible.

The increased surveillance of the drumlines will lead to additional operating costs associated with extra contractor time at sea, supply of acoustic tags for released sharks and acoustic tag monitors.

The governments are continuing constructive discussions about contributions to costs of the ongoing program and other nonlethal shark control measures.

The funding supports the delivery of the joint Australian-Queensland Government Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan, relevant species management and recovery plans made under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and the National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley said human safety was her government's overriding priority and Queensland's reinstatement of the drumlines in the Marine Park and operating within the Tribunal's conditions was an important step forward.

Federal minister for the environment Sussan Ley.
Federal minister for the environment Sussan Ley.

Queensland's Department of Agriculture and Fisheries advise that contractor training was expected to occur over 29-30 January 2020.

Biopixel will be leading the training and we understand NSW Fisheries and Aussafe will also be attending.

Following the training, Aussafe will then finalise Standard Operating Procedures that will guide the contractors undertaking the work.

Queensland's Department of Agriculture and Fisheries expect to redeploy its shark control equipment into the Marine Park in a matter of weeks following contractor training.

 

A drumline lures a shark in Cid Harbour in the Whitsundays.
A drumline lures a shark in Cid Harbour in the Whitsundays.

 

Australian Marine Conservation Society welcomes new evidence-based shark plan

 

Australia's peak marine conservation group has welcomed the announcement that a sensible, evidence-based approach to shark mitigation and public safety is being introduced to our Great Barrier Reef.

The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) said the agreement between the Commonwealth and Federal governments to redeploy SMART drum lines trials, pilot drone surveillance and instigate swimmer education was good for reef health.

Dr Leonardo Guida, AMCS shark scientist and spokesperson welcomed the Queensland government's use of the latest scientific evidence and technology to increase the safety of beach goers in the World Heritage Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

"Sharks are critical to our Reef's health as they keep food webs in check, and it's the very health of our Reef that supports around 64,000 tourism jobs," Dr Guida said.

"Our Reef is facing a potential listing as 'in danger' by UNESCO this year which could impact negatively on tourism. It is important to build resilience into Reef health and sharks are integral to that.

"A healthy Reef supports healthy shark populations, which are also good for Australia's commercial and recreational fishing industries."

The new program will ensure Queensland complies with a decision handed down by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) last year to end lethal shark culling in our Great Barrier Reef.

In the case, which was brought by Humane Society International (HSI), the AAT found "overwhelming" scientific evidence showing that killing sharks does not reduce the risk of unprovoked interactions with humans, and that there were concerns for the impact culling has on the Reef's ecosystem noting a "significant reduction" in the tiger shark population within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Dr Guida added that he hoped the co-operation and leadership shown by the Queensland and Commonwealth governments would lead to more humane, science-based shark mitigation strategies for the entire Queensland coast.