Since appearing on the big screen in the 1975 film adaptation of Jaws, sharks have been portrayed as villainous predators – but are we treating sharks fairly?
Since appearing on the big screen in the 1975 film adaptation of Jaws, sharks have been portrayed as villainous predators – but are we treating sharks fairly?

Calls for nonlethal shark alternatives on Bundy beaches

FOOTAGE of a shark euthanised after being caught in drumlines off the coast of Bargara has resurfaced amid concerns little has been done to ensure history does not repeat.

Mistreatment of sharks has caused global debate for years, with many cases of the carnivorous fish becoming entangled on nets or drumlines and euthanised as a result, often without even putting humans at risk.

Despite Bundaberg beaches not recording a fatal shark attack in almost a century, data from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries QFISH shows 49 sharks were killed and just nine were released last year, off local beaches.

While this year, 53 sharks have so far been killed and none have been released alive.

"In 2019, those released alive were three completely harmless tawny (nurse) sharks, one (of which) was killed and six tiger sharks (which were) likely very small," Queensland co-ordinator of Sea Shepherd campaign Apex Harmony, Johnathan Clark said.

"Four of those sharks killed in 2020 were tawnies."

Sea Shepherd Queensland co-ordinator for Apex Harmony campaign Jonathan Clark with volunteers and local divers Gabby Nieuwenhof, Tom Hughes and Leigha Aitken.
Sea Shepherd Queensland co-ordinator for Apex Harmony campaign Jonathan Clark with volunteers and local divers Gabby Nieuwenhof, Tom Hughes and Leigha Aitken.

Playing a vital role for the ecosystem, these apex predators are essential for keeping oceans healthy and balancing the food chain, part of the reason Mr Clark said the organisation is fighting so hard to implement changes.

"The drumlines off the Bargara coast are within the Great Sandy Marine Park and contain sensitive habitats," Mr Clark said.

"While permits have changed for the use of drumlins by the Queensland Shark Control Program (QSCP) within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, requiring daily checking while deployed within the Great Sandy Marine Park and indeed the rest of Queensland, nothing has changed.

"The Wongarra coast has 20 drumlins deployed and they are supposed to be checked by QSCP contractors on average 182 days per year."

Meeting with the manager of the Queensland Shark Control Program this week, Mr Clark said he would present a modernisation proposal and cost estimate that demonstrates the viability and effectiveness of a nonlethal alternative.

Developed by Apex Harmony and in partnership with Envoy, the Australian Marine Conservation Society and Humane Society International, Mr Clark said the proposal is based on research commissioned by Queensland Fisheries and presented by CARDNO.

"In our cost estimates, we have proposed the three best rated mitigation alternatives from the CARDNO report and for the Bargara coast (which) would see the implementation of drone surveillance," Mr Clark said.

"As the beaches there have medium level swell energy, (they are) unsuitable for Eco Shark Barrier technology which we have advocated for in waters protected by the Great Barrier Reef.

"Queensland Fisheries has been trialling drones at three locations and this is a move in the right direction - we remain hopeful that these trials lead to serious deployment and ultimately the removal of shark nets and drumlins sooner rather than later."

Sea Shepherd footage shows the trapped tiger shark hanging upside down from the drum line, with rope wrapped tightly around her tail, and a metal chain and hook in her jaw. 7 News Wide Bay
Sea Shepherd footage shows the trapped tiger shark hanging upside down from the drum line, with rope wrapped tightly around her tail, and a metal chain and hook in her jaw. 7 News Wide Bay

The fight for change comes after Mr Clark captured footage of an incident in 2018, which saw a 3m-long tiger shark hanging upside down from a drum line off the coast of Kelly's Beach.

The female shark had rope wrapped tightly around her tail, as well as a metal chain and hook in her jaw and she was eventually euthanised by the State Government.

Despite outrage over this incident two years ago, Mr Clark said nothing had changed to prevent similar incidents from occurring, despite the introduction of a new permit.

"It is extremely disappointing to us that the Queensland Fisheries Minister is so resistant to change in the QSCP," Mr Clark said.

"This resistance was clearly demonstrated in the response to the 2019 findings against the program in relation to the Great Barrier Reef when the department appealed the decision (and lost) and subsequently has not yet properly followed the requirements of the court's decisions.

"The QSCP is still killing sharks in the Great Barrier Reef and by continuing to do so, this demonstrates that they do not care for change in the face of scientific evidence, legal findings or public opinion."

Mr Clark said following the work of Apex Harmony and HSI in 2018 and in the lead-up to the court case, Queensland Fisheries introduced a 20m exclusion zone around shark nets and drumlins, making it impossible for organisations to make the public aware of these incidents.

"The legislation provides heavy fines for encroaching the exclusion zone which makes it nearly impossible to bring transparency, such as the images we captured in 2018, off the Bargara coast," Mr Clark said.

"Only yesterday, the program killed a dolphin and critically endangered scalloped hammerhead in a Currumbin (Gold Coast) shark net.

"Without transparency and the work of activists in this area, very few people would understand the detrimental effects the QSCP is having on sharks, dolphins, rays, whales and other critically important species."

A dead Great Hammerhead shark was found caught in a shark net off a beach on the Gold Coast in 2018, before the 20m exclusion zone was enforced.
A dead Great Hammerhead shark was found caught in a shark net off a beach on the Gold Coast in 2018, before the 20m exclusion zone was enforced.

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner said the Queensland Government stands by its Shark Control Program, which has been operating since 1962.

"We are investing $1 million per year in innovation and working closely with the program's Scientific Working Group," Mr Furner said.

"The exclusion zone is in place because shark control equipment is dangerous and could cause serious injury or death if interfered with."

A spokeswoman for Fisheries Queensland said there are currently 20 drumlins in place across four beaches in the Bundaberg region, as part of the QSCP.

"Nets and drumlins are serviced regularly, weather permitting, by independent contractors," the spokeswoman said.

"In the Bundaberg region, target shark species, including bull, tiger and white sharks, captured on drumlins are removed and humanely euthanised (while) all other animals are released alive wherever possible."

The spokeswoman said the Queensland Government is committed to reviewing and adapting the Shark Control Program in line with emerging science and community expectations.

She said the 'Do your part - be SharkSmart' campaign also encourages Queenslanders to follow SharkSmart tips to reduce the risk of negative encounters with sharks and help to keep others safe while on or in the water.

"The program is investing $1 million per year in research and trialling new shark mitigation technology to determine what may be appropriate alternatives for Queensland conditions," the spokeswoman said.

"This includes the current SharkSmart drone trial at five beaches on the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and North Stradbroke Island which is planned to be extended to more Queensland beaches, including in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, in future.

"Trials of SMART drumlins and barriers are also planned, with locations to be determined."

For more information, visit SharkSmart Queensland or phone Fisheries Queensland on 13 25 23.



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