The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) today condemned Queensland and New South Wales’ Shark Control Programs for their indiscriminate catch of marine wildlife, including rare and threatened species.
Information obtained from Queensland’s Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries under Freedom of Information by Channel 7 reveals a staggering bycatch of harmless marine animals by the nets and baited drumlines of Queensland’s shark control program. Contrary to popular belief, shark nets, which are designed to stop shark attacks on humans by capturing the sharks and preventing their escape eventually drowning them, do not physically stop sharks from reaching the beach. Sharks can and do swim over — nets float 4m or more below the surface for boating reasons — and around the nets, with some 40% of sharks caught on the beach side of the nets. Baited lines themselves actually attract sharks.
Ingrid Neilson, spokesperson for the Australian Marine Conservation Society said:
“It is simply unacceptable to sanction a program that is having such a jaw-dropping toll on our precious ocean wildlife when alternatives exist. The cost to marine life, including many rare and threatened animals such as dugongs, sea turtles, and whales, is both shocking and appalling. Real questions remain over the acceptability of the impacts of the programs on shark populations themselves – many of which are in real trouble. Shark nets are basically walls of death. They are intended to kill sharks, not deter them. When it comes to protecting beachgoers and threatened marine species, there’s no better alternative than regular beach patrols by surf lifesavers.”
In the last few decades over 90% of sharks and other big fish have been fished from the oceans. Globally, 100 million sharks are caught each year in fisheries, a rate that is unsustainable and threatens the future of many species. The grey nurse shark is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List and as endangered under Queensland’s Nature Conservation Act 1992.
Australia is one of only two places on Earth that use shark nets. The other is Hong Kong.
Copyright © 2009 by Marine Science Today, a publication of OceanLines LLC