'Pointless': Conservation group fighting against drum lines
RECENT shark attacks at Swains Reef and the Whitsundays are grabbing the headlines but one group believes the government's shark control strategy is fundamentally flawed.
Over the past week, Coast Guard Yeppoon received several phone calls from members of the public reporting they had observed a boat with three people on board interfering with shark lines along local beaches on the Capricorn Coast.
Upon investigating, they determined that marine wildlife conservation organisation, Sea Shepherd Australia was in the local area with their boat, monitoring and gathering information on local shark buoys.
In a media release Sea Shepherd Australia contended that the Queensland Shark Control Program was providing a false sense of security, questioned the level of public support for the strategy of using drumlines or nets and explained why they were providing much needed oversight.
Sea Shepherd Australia representative Jonathan Clark said the public had grown to realise the futility and cruelty inherent in a lethal program of shark bite mitigation.
"Placing baited hooks off our coast is not only pointless as far as making beaches safer, it is poor practice and lazy policy to do so,” Mr Clark said.
"There is no science that backs the use of lethal methods of shark bite mitigation whilst there are effective non-lethal methods available right now.
"Sea Shepherd's Operation Apex Harmony is currently operating in the Yeppoon area as part of a mission to bring transparency to the Queensland Shark Control Program where currently there is little.”
In 2017, the Capricorn Coast's 56 drumlines caught 40 sharks, ranging in size from a 60cm bull whaler through to a 3.67 tiger shark at Emu Park.
"We have found that drumlines are deployed where murky water, stingers and crocodiles keep people from the water and simple stinger nets or barriers could be used instead,” Mr Clark said.
"Our surveys find up to 100% of the drumlines have no bait on them.”
Mr Clark said they had experienced refusal to attend vulnerable species caught on the lines and refusal to attend distressed and tortured sharks.
"Sometimes sharks are left on lines for more than 48 hours where they are likely to be an attractant for larger sharks.”
"The Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries made a seriously bad call in regard to deploying drumlines in Cid Harbour recently.
"Their removal is acknowledgement of failure in terms of mitigation, the effect on local ecology and even in public relations and tourism.”
He said this failure was indicative of the pointlessness of the whole lethal system and called on the Queensland Government to immediately acknowledge their own election platform on the matter and implement non-lethal technologies.
A Department of Agriculture and Fisheries spokesperson said the Queensland Government would not compromise human safety and continued to support the Shark Control Program with its combination of shark nets and drum lines at 85 of Queensland's most popular beaches.
"Since the Shark Control Program started in 1962, there has been one shark fatality at a shark control beach in Queensland,” the spokesperson said.
"Based on the evidence to date, traditional capture methods remain the most effective measures to reduce the risk of shark attack.
"Drumlines are effective at catching species such as tiger sharks, which are more prevalent in north Queensland, whereas shark nets are a more effective measure for species such as the aggressive bull shark, which are more prevalent in south east Queensland.
"If new technologies are shown to be effective and are practical for use, they will be considered.”
Capricornia MP Michelle Landry said drumlines were essential to protect people and by extension, the tourism industry.
"In areas where there are a lot of tourists and people swimming, I think it is appropriate to have shark lines,” she said.
"I do encourage people fishing or out in the ocean, the ocean can be dangerous, so please be careful.”
For further information on Sea Shepherd Australia Apex Harmony program visit: www.facebook.com/apexharmony/
More information about the Scientific Working Group: www.daf.qld.gov.au/fisheries/shark-control-program/shark-control-program-scientific-working-group.
Statistics for the Queensland Shark Control Program available here:
For statistics about shark attacks: taronga.org.au/conservation-and-science/australian-shark-attack-file