Green plan to scrap shark nets from Coast beaches
ENVIRONMENTALISTS petitioning for the removal of shark nets from Sunshine Coast beaches during the whale migration season have slammed the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and the head of the State's shark control program for failing to appear as witnesses at a Senate inquiry in Brisbane.
Sunshine Coast Environment Council co-ordinator Leah Hays said the staunch position taken recently by Shark Control Program head Jeff Krause in support of the State Government's refusal to remove nets during the humpback whale migration season meant he should have fronted the inquiry tomorrowto explain why.
A Fisheries Queensland spokesperson said the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries had provided a written submission to the Senate Inquiry.
That submission defended the existing control program that has been place since 1962 following multiple fatal incidents.
It acknowledges the $3.3million annual program affects non-target species but said it had resulted in just one human fatality from shark bite in the past 54 years.
Surf Life Saving Queensland has also backed the program and called for further netting of the Mooloolah and Maroochy river mouths despite also indicating awareness of the impact on non-target species.
SCEC has called for the 14 shark nets currently deployed along Sunshine Coast and Rainbow Beach waters to be removed this humpback season to avoid further entanglements.
And it wants immediate first-responder training for life guards and lifesavers to ensure a swift response should marine megafauna become entrapped in existing nets.
The peak environment group would be meeting Noosa and Sunshine Coast councils in the coming months to seek support to have the nets removed during migration season and replaced with non-lethal technology.
"With the knowledge we have of shark movements, as well as hard evidence on the devastating marine life bycatch we're seeing all up and down the Queensland coast, the argument to continue using this outdated and damaging technology introduced in the '60s is no longer valid," Ms Hays said.
She said alternatives existed that would contribute to beach-goer safety while reducing harm to marine life.
In the 10 years from January 2007 to December 2016, there had been 418 non-shark species captured on shark nets between Bribie Island and Rainbow Beach.
Of those, Ms Hays would tell the inquiry, 53% were found deceased, with post-release mortality due to stress and injury of the other 47% unknown.
Of these statistics, the following bycatch was recorded: 70 dolphins (84% deceased); eight whales (all released alive); six dugongs (100% deceased); 129 turtles (10% deceased); 32 rays (56% deceased); 73 tuna (97% deceased); 24 grey nurse sharks (100% deceased).
"A stark statistic is that almost never reported are the deaths of the federally-protected and critically-endangered grey nurse sharks in Queensland, most of these occurring in Sunshine Coast waters," Ms Hays said.
Sunshine Coast marine biologist Chad Buxton said even one death had a significant impact on the population of grey nurse sharks which he described as gentle sharks.
Mr Buxton said current catch rates of the species by the shark nets were neither sustainable nor acceptable.