THE Australian Government has committed $5 million to help the Queensland Government re-deploy shark control measures such as drumlines and improve swimmer safety inside the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
An initial $4 million will help support Queensland’s transition to non-lethal shark control measures with further costs to be assessed as the Queensland Government implements:
• SMART drumline trials
• rebates to councils to install swimmer safety netting
• piloting drone surveillance
• swimmer education.
This program will comply with the decision of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, upheld by the Federal Court, while protecting swimmers – ensuring visitors can once again feel safe. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has been working closely with Queensland’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, on the roll-out of a compliant shark control program inside the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park as quickly as possible.
It is expected shark control equipment will be re-deployed from mid-February. The increased surveillance of the drumlines will lead to additional operating costs associated with extra contractor time at sea, supply of acoustic tags for released sharks and acoustic tag monitors.
The Commonwealth and Queensland State government are continuing constructive discussions about contributions to costs of the ongoing program and other non-lethal shark control measures. The Commonwealth will also make available $1 million to assist in shark management for the Whitsundays community, which has been badly shaken by a number of recent shark attacks.
This urgent funding will help:
• continue research to improve our understanding of shark biology, ecology, population status and behavior in the Whitsundays
• trial technological advances in shark control measures such as near real-time alerts (eg through a sightings app) or drone surveillance in the Whitsundays, and
• install signage and ramp-up education.
The funding supports the delivery of the joint Australian-Queensland Government Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan, relevant species management and recovery plans made under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and the National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks.
“Human safety is our overriding priority and Queensland’s reinstatement of the drumlines in the Marine Park and operating within the Tribunal’s conditions is an important step forward,” Environment Minister Sussan Ley said. “We’re delighted to provide funding to assist in Queensland’s transition to a modern, multipronged shark control program inside the Marine Park and in line with the Tribunal’s decision.”
Queensland Fisheries Minister Mark Furner welcomed the funding and said restoring the program has been made possible after the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) issued an amended permit that took into account workplace health and safety issues.
“The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries is currently supporting its shark contractors to develop standard operating procedures to ensure the safety of the contractors and workers,” Mr Furner said. “Contractors will check drumlines regularly. Other shark species will be released at the site of their capture. If it is unsafe for the contractor, or if there are any animal welfare concerns, sharks will be euthanised.”
Mr Furner said relocating and releasing sharks would reduce the immediate risk to swimmers at that location, but would not remove the risk entirely.
“That’s why we are proposing to implement a range of other swimmer safety measures and continue our Shark Smart education program,” Mr Furner said.