Australian Shark Control Program: Nets to Stay in Place

Written by on October 29, 2009 in Marine Life, Other News, Policy & Ocean Law
Great white shark - Credit: Dr. Dirk Schmidt/Marine Photobank

Great white shark – Credit: Dr. Dirk Schmidt/Marine Photobank

The Queensland Government says it remains committed to the shark control program despite calls for an end to the shark nets that protect Queensland beaches and indiscriminately catch marine life.  Read our previous story on Australia’s shark nets at Australian Shark Control Programs Indiscriminately Catch Marine Life.

Fisheries Minister Tim Mulherin said a recent incident re-enforced that there are still dangerous sharks off the Queensland coast and still a need for the shark control program.  Read the report on the Media Channel (link no longer active).

White shark - Photo by Dr. Dwayne Meadows, NOAA/NMFS/OPR - NOAA's Coral Kingdom Collection

White shark – Photo by Dr. Dwayne Meadows, NOAA/NMFS/OPR – NOAA’s Coral Kingdom Collection

Minister Mulherin said:

“A 3 metre plus white pointer was killed on a drum line off Stradbroke Island last week.  When the contractor pulled in the dead shark he was alarmed by what he saw.  Massive bite marks, with a radius of 50 cm, had carved off huge chunks of flesh. These bite marks had the distinctive triangular shape that indicated it must have been another white pointer.  The experts believe it would have taken a white pointer at least 5 metres long to cause this kind of damage.

When I saw these pictures it re-enforced to me that we have a shark control program for a reason and that is to protect beach goers. People have forgotten why Queensland, New South Wales, and South Africa introduced nets in the first place.

During one horrific period in South Africa in the late 1950s 5 people were killed in three and a half months.  Holiday makers were panic stricken and the South African navy even dropped depth charges to try and kill sharks.  Between 1958 and 1961 Queensland had 5 fatal shark attacks.

The shark control program was introduced in 1962 and in the 47 years since then there has only been one fatal attack on a protected beach.  I think those results speak for themselves.

Some critics say we should remove nets during whale migration season – but in Queensland people swim all year round.  The current peak migration season covers the September school holidays in Queensland and also the start of the surf lifesaving season – both of which increase beach visitations.

Our whale rescue teams are very efficient at releasing trapped whales.  In the last 9 years there have been 28 whales trapped and 25 have been successfully released.  So far this year all 5 trapped whales have been set free.

But let me make it perfectly clear to everyone – I am not prepared to endanger human lives by removing shark nets”.

Sunfish entangled in net  -  Credit: Alessio Viora/Marine Photobank

Sunfish entangled in net – Credit: Alessio Viora/Marine Photobank

The Australian Marine Conservation Society reported that information obtained from the very 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.  Seven dugong, eight grey nurse sharks, tens of bottle nosed dolphins and hundreds of rays and sea turtles are among the animals killed in the nets in the last five years.  Could there be a way to scare away sharks rather than capture and kill them or hold them off the beaches to this high cost?

White shark - Photo by Terry Goss

White shark – Photo by Terry Goss

Copyright ©  2009 by Marine Science Today, a publication of OceanLines LLC

About the Author

About the Author: Celia is Director of Business Operations for OceanLines LLC and is a frequent contributor to both OceanLines and Marine Science Today. She is a certified diver and her favorite topic is marine biology, especially stories about whales. .


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