Every shark caught off southeast Qld coast this year

 

Dolphins and whales are among the more than 100 creatures caught in shark control lines between Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast over the past 12 months.

Data obtained by Quest Community News has revealed that a total of 107 creatures were caught in drum lines and nets off North Stradbroke Island, Bribie Island and the Sunshine Coast during 2019-20.

Sharks caught and released metres from swimmers at Redcliffe

A new warehouse style supermarket coming to Moreton Bay

The majority of these were sharks as intended, though some unlucky rays, dolphins, whales and fish, along with a dugong and a turtle, were also snared.

Known as bycatch, these included two humpback whales, a loggerhead turtle, five bottlenose dolphins, five mata rays and a sea snake.

 

Lawrence Chlebeck, a marine biologist and campaigner at Humane Society International, said the figures were not surprising.

"Drum lines do have a lower bycatch rate than shark nets though they both take a pretty terrible toll on marine life," he said.

"These are considered to be lethal because they are designed to kill the sharks and reduce the population. There's certainly effective nonlethal alternatives available."

Gold Coast marine biologist Holly Richmond for her new film, The Shark Net Film. Picture: supplied
Gold Coast marine biologist Holly Richmond for her new film, The Shark Net Film. Picture: supplied

Mr Chlebeck said Smart Drumlines, for example, were much more effective at targeting dangerous shark species, and could also help provide scientists with valuable research data.

"Once an animal is caught in a smart line, it can be tagged and relocated and its movements can be tracked so we learn a bit more about where these sharks are moving," he said.

"There's also drone surveillance which can work in clear waters and personal shark deterrents.

"In Western Australia, the government offers surfers and divers etc a $200 subsidy to purchase a deterrents which emits an electromagnetic field to disrupt a shark's sensors.

Tom van Zoelen swimming near a shark net last year. Photo: Colin Murty The Australian
Tom van Zoelen swimming near a shark net last year. Photo: Colin Murty The Australian

"For a shark it's a kin to a very loud noise."

A Fisheries Queensland spokesman said the government's Shark Control Program (SCP) used a range of measures to reduce the capture of non-target species.

"This includes using drumlines wherever possible, acoustic pingers to warn dolphins and whales of the gear's presence, and using bait that doesn't attract dolphins and turtles," he said.

"Improvements in the types of nets, hooks, and bait have improved the ability to target key species while reducing non-target catch.

"Additionally, the Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol's highly trained Marine Animal Rescue Teams (MART) are skilled in releasing whales tangled in shark nets."

Surveillance cameras mounted on Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Rainbow Beach buildings monitor shark control equipment for entangled marine animals.

"The cameras can be remotely operated to focus on nets, enabling faster responses to check reported entanglements," the spokesman said.

Volunteers also provide regular surveillance and information to the MART.

Mr Chlebeck said

He said the Queensland Government recently lost a court battle over killing sharks and was directed by the court to trial the use of non lethal alternatives.

"There are much better options that better adhere to where we are as a society with technology and our outlook on the environment," Mr Chlebeck said.

The government has committed $1 million a year to research and trial shark control alternatives.

The trials are being informed by a Scientific Working Group with a review of alternatives undertaken by a leading engineering, environment and design consultancy.

The Queensland government meanwhile has said the new safety exclusion zone around shark control equipment has proven successful since its introduction last year.

"Human life will always be the Queensland Government's top priority for the shark control program," Minister Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner said

"We place great importance on maintaining the safety of swimmers at our beaches.

"Shark control equipment is dangerous and anyone interfering with it runs the risk of becoming entangled or injured.

Failing to stay the required distance from shark control equipment can incur an on-the-spot fine of $533 and a maximum fine of $26,690.

Originally published as Every shark caught off southeast Qld coast this year



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