Queensland govt double kill spend on sharks, whales, dolphins

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Queensland’s Fisheries Minister, Mark Furner recently announced his government would double its so called shark control programme (the QSCP) to $17.1million over four years. Just $1million of it annually is for research. Queensland has had the same programme in place since 1962.

This, despite an Australian Senate inquiry finding shark nets should be phased out as they cause more harm than good. Sea Shepherd Australia is not happy. It’s shark campaigner Jonathan Clark said, “The Queensland Government seems utterly disinterested in providing real beach safety {by adopting] currently available technologies that are proven to be effective and have no impact on our precious marine ecosystems.”

He said the programme does nothing for the dolphins, whales, turtles, rays and sharks that become entangled and killed by the shark nets and drumlines.

Two humpback whales were caught In the shark nets in six days in June, one at Main Beach on the Gold Coast and the other at Rainbow Beach in Queensland’s north-east. One of the whales struggled for at least four hours before finally being released.

In 2017, eight humpbacks were caught in the nets along the Queensland coast. Over 30,000 whales travel from Antarctica to the warm waters of north Queensland every year between April and November. About the latest entanglements Jonathan Clark said “Shark nets do nothing for human safety. They provide a false sense of safety whilst quietly killing the variety of sea life that ought to be protected. Whales, sharks, rays, dolphins, birds, dugongs and turtles are all casualties.

“The QSCP’s budget increase merely creates a false sense of safety at our beaches.”

Along with the 186 metres long shark nets (in which many holes have been recorded), there are 383 drumlines (buoys with big hooks attached) sitting off popular Queensland beaches. More than 500 sharks were caught by the programme last year, but the nets also entangled 132 ‘non-target species’ such as rays, turtles and dolphins. 60 of them died before they could be rescued, including six dolphins, two loggerhead turtles and a humpback whale.

The drumlines are described not so much as a barrier to sharks but more of a fishing device. Hanging straight down from them is a rope, a chain, and a fairly large hook. The hooks are supposed to be baited every couple of days to tempt and catch any sharks swimming nearby. But a television crew recently reported that of 58 lines they checked in one day, 26 had no bait on them, which meant they could be removed and it would make no difference to beach safety.

Shark researcher Richard Fitzpatrick from James Cook University, said “People see the floats out there and think they’re safe, not realising what the nets and drumlines are actually doing.

“The nets aren’t a full barrier and the drumlines are a big hook with a big chunk of meat on it, just sitting off a beach.

“The science behind the programme to be honest is not that strong; it’s more a measure to keep the public happy.”

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