Searching for shark solution
CAUGHT in a political stalemate, the Capricorn Coast’s shark control problem is drifting without a solution.
A month on from the Federal Court decision which brought to a halt the Queensland Government’s catch and remove shark drum line program for beaches within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, the Capricorn Coast beaches remain dangerously exposed.
With the state and federal government’s unable to agree on a practical way forward, a change in the law governing the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is shaping up to be the only lasting solution.
Reduced from a total of 53 drum lines to seven, the Capricorn Coast’s shark control program has performed a vital protective role, with shark sometimes over 3m in length being caught.
The capture of a 4m tiger shark this week in front of Townsville’s busy Strand beach was a timely reminder for the need to quickly re-establish a shark protection strategy.
According to Capricornia MP Michelle Landry, the Queensland Government should never have removed the drumlines and the government’s legal advice suggests they should be redeployed.
She accused the Queensland Department of Fisheries of doing nothing to prepare for the legal outcome and didn’t bother training staff to implement the orders.
“The court orders were for the drumlines to be checked more frequently, non-target shark species to be released and target species to be tagged and relocated,” she said.
“The court orders also mandated a trial of SMART drumlines, not that all 173 traditional drumlines be removed or replaced.”
Due to logistic and safety concerns, Queensland Fisheries Minister Mark Furner said his government was unable to comply with new conditions changing the program from ‘catch and remove’ to ‘catch and release’.
“Our contractors and staff are neither trained nor equipped to handle live sharks, tow them away from where they are caught then release them alive,” Mr Furner said.
“The catch-and-release method forced on us .. would mean towing sharks from one popular beach to another that not only puts the lives of beachgoers in danger but our shark control program staff and contractors.
“Our legal advice is that our staff could also be liable to prosecution if they are unable to meet the new conditions.”
Mr Furner has written twice to Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley strongly urging her to move quickly to change federal laws and restore the program.
“The solution is very clear- the Federal Government must put people first, change the laws and allow our (program) back in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park,” he said.
Keppel MP Brittany Lauga echoed Mr Furner’s call for a legislation change saying she had received plenty of support for her petition calling for the law change to return the drum lines, including from concerned Emu Park Lifesavers.
“It’s their job to save lives on the beach and they are concerned, not only about the surf live savers safety, the nipper’s safety, but also the people who are swimming at the beach.
Ms Lauga believed that a change in legislation by Federal Government was the best way to resolve the situation.
“The State Government wrote to the Federal (Environment) Minister back in April this year and said we need to consider legislative change, depending on what happens with this court decision and it fell on deaf ears,” she said.
“This problem could have been solved. The drumlines never needed to be removed. The Federal Government could have changed the legislation before the court decision was handed down and those drumlines could still be at our beaches.”
She said the legislation should be top priority for the government but questioned their level of urgency and if pressure was being applied by local members in the affected areas like Capricornia.
Ms Ley’s spokesperson said they continued to urge the Queensland Government to reinstate the drum lines and “legislative options are not needed to make this happen but are being reviewed”.
Ms Landry said the Environment Minister had made it clear that she was looking at legislative frameworks but also that “these are by nature medium to long term responses”.
She was unable to provide details regarding the government’s approach towards legislating a solution beyond warning that it could take months for the legislation to be passed.