The Shark Control Program Scientific Working Group’s Whitsundays subgroup met for the first time last week.
The Shark Control Program Scientific Working Group’s Whitsundays subgroup met for the first time last week.

Whitsunday shark board says 'nothing is off the table'

THE first meeting of a new group designed to target shark control and swimmer safety in the Whitsundays was held this week, with monitoring and new technologies among strategies discussed.

The Whitsundays subgroup of the Shark Control Program Scientific Working Group was formed in response to the shark attacks that occurred in 2018 and 2019, and is made up of various stakeholders from the region as well as scientists and representatives from Fisheries Queensland.

The group will work together throughout the next year to investigate new technologies, monitor existing plans and formulate ideas on how best to approach shark control in the region.

Deputy chair of Tourism Whitsundays Al Grundy said the unique environment of the Whitsundays meant that innovative approaches to typical shark control would need to be investigated rather than a one-size-fits-all policy.

Mr Grundy said at this point, "nothing is off the table".

"Some of the things that we've asked to look at is extending the number of in-water probes," he said.

"The Department of Fisheries is also keen for us to do a drone trial, even on a small scale at the moment, that could either prove or disprove their effectiveness.

"That leads to the possibility of an underwater camera trial … and then leads us on to another program, which is site assessments.

"I think a lot of the work we're doing is going to cross over and it's good we're all working together because it will give us all a benefit."

The programs currently in place include a blanket ban on swimming in Cid Harbour as well as investments into the monitoring of shark numbers and behaviours in the harbour.

Mr Grundy said expanding this monitoring to cover a wider area of the Whitsundays' marine region would be beneficial in gaining a better understanding of shark movements and concentration.

A spokesman from Fisheries Queensland said beyond the current measures, the group also looked at how to best to invest the $1 million package from the state and federal governments to assist in shark management that was announced early this year.

A first aid workshop is also being provided by the department for tourism operators in marine first aid.

"A significant outcome from the meeting that was well received by the tourism industry was the department's funding of training by Surf Life Saving Queensland this week in the Whitsundays for more than 200 tourism operators to train them in marine incidents and how to use tourniquets," he said.

"This includes 200 first aid kits that are being distributed throughout the tourism industry and will be available on boats.

"We know that risks are very low, but ensuring tourism operators are prepared in case of any incidents is still a key part of ensuring swimmer safety."