Greenie anger as state drags the chain on SMART drumlines
Conservationists who won a battle to end lethal shark control measures in the Great Barrier Reef marine park say the state has stalled on a court-ordered SMART drumlines trial.
Humane Society International, whose legal action ended the State Government's lethal shark control measures in the marine park, has accused the state of "dragging its heels" on the trial almost two years after it was ordered and a year after it announced it would go ahead.
The State Opposition has also blasted the delay, saying it did not "make sense for the environment or human safety" and that federal funding had already been provided.
SMART drumlines trigger an alert when a shark is caught so it can be tagged and released and have been used in New South Wales for the past five years on a trial basis.
The Palaszczuk Government conceded defeat and announced a trial 12 months ago after losing a court appeal and repeatedly arguing SMART drumlines would not work.
It returned drumlines to the marine park in February 2020, shifting to a catch and release program and announcing a SMART drumlines trial in line with a Tribunal order.
The Administrative Appeals Tribunal ordered an end to Queensland's catch-and-kill program in April 2019, ruling sharks must instead be released - ideally within 24 hours - and smart drumlines trialled and introduced "as soon as reasonably possible" after accepting there was no basis to the state's claims that killing sharks caught on drumlines prevented shark attacks.
But analysis by Humane Society International of state shark catch data shows more than three quarters of sharks caught in the marine park are still dying on the hook before being released, suggesting drumlines (baited hooks) are not being checked frequently enough.
The analysis reveals 137 of the 178 sharks caught on drumlines between February 2020 and December 2020 died in the process of being caught and released.
That equated to an average 12.3 sharks dying each month under the lethal program compared to an average of about 13 sharks a month after the court-ordered ban on euthanizing sharks.
HSI marine biologist Lawrence Chlebeck said while half as many tiger sharks were now dying after being caught, too many smaller shark species, such as tawny sharks, were not surviving.
Drumlines are being checked 260 days a year - up from 182 days - but Mr Chlebeck argues the state needed to push ahead with some of the bigger court-ordered reforms.
"It's an improvement but probably not enough if they are going to be really adhering to the court orders and avoiding the lethal take of sharks to the greatest extent possible," he said.
Fisheries Minister Mark Furner said a SharkSmart drone trial was underway in the state's south-east and planning had begun for a SMART drumline trial in central Queensland in 2021.
He said tiger, bull and white sharks were tagged and relocated alive where it was possible and safe for workers as required.
"The government is committed to continuous improvement, but will not make changes until effective alternatives suitable for Queensland conditions are identified," he said.
State Opposition environment spokesman Sam O'Connor said taking a year to deliver SMART drumlines "doesn't make sense for the environment or human safety.
"The trial should have started long ago, especially given the federal government stumped up millions in funding to make it happen," he said.
"SMART drum lines are essential in protecting swimmers as well as getting the best environmental outcomes."
Originally published as Greenie anger as state drags the chain on SMART drunlines