‘Won’t make a difference’: Shark net fight fires up
ANIMAL activists say the Gold Coast should trial the removal of shark nets during the coronavirus pandemic "because we have no international tourism anyway".
However, politicians and tourism bosses say human safety should never be compromised and the nets should remain until research provides an undeniable alternative.
In June, the Bulletinrevealed Fisheries Minister Mark Furner was considering replacing nets off some beaches with drum lines during the annual whale migration to prevent entanglements.
More than a month later, the Government has not pushed forward with its trial and has not indicated when or if it will proceed.
A petition by Humpbacks and Highrises (HHR) has collected 130,000 signatures from across the globe on its online Change.org petition "Stop whale entanglements".
HHR founder, marine biologist and surfer Dr Olaf Meynecke said the lack of government action was not good enough.
"Another entanglement is exactly what's going to happen. We're just waiting for one of the newborns to be caught again, as happened in June. Another one will be killed, which happened three years and that didn't seem to change anything," he said.
Dr Meynecke believes "taking one or two nets won't make much of a difference (to safety) in the scheme of things".
"We have no international tourism anyway, so the justification from the tourism sector, to say we can't do it because we're risking everything. Well no, this is the year. Let's give it a go.
"Why do we have to wait for another whale to be entangled?" he said.
The Coast has had not experienced a fatal shark attack on its beaches since Brisbane man Peter Gerard Spronk was mauled off Surfers Paradise on November 23, 1958, while multiple attacks have occurred on unprotected northern NSW beaches in recent years.
Most recently, surfer Robin "Rob'' Pedretti died after being attacked by a great white at Salt Beach near Kingscliff on June 7.
Destination Gold Coast chairman Paul Donovan was hesitant to support removing nets and said a shark attack on a popular beach would be devastating.
"We cannot afford to have anyone getting into trouble off our beaches, full stop," Mr Donovan said.
"We've had safe beaches and my view is why play with it? But I'll listen to the experts."
Broadwater MP and Shadow Tourism Minister David Crisafulli said he wanted research to prove that the removal of nets would not compromise human safety.
Asked about the future of the nets, Mr Furner did not provide a direct response.
"The Government has been focused on protecting the health of Queenslanders and beginning to implement Queensland's plan for economic recovery," he said.
"Human life will always come first with the shark control program, which has been keeping Queenslanders and visitors safe since 1962.
"We are investing in innovation for the program, but we will not compromise human safety."
Dr Meynecke said crews tasked to rescue snagged whales were "over it".
"They don't want to risk their lives and cut whales free over and over again," he said.
The debate between the government and environmentalists comes after three humpback whales were snagged in Coast nets in three days between June 19-21.
Nearly 60 humpbacks have been caught in Gold Coast nets and four have died since 2001.
Originally published as 'Won't make a difference': Shark net fight fires up