A 3m female white shark that was caught on a smart drumline at Ballina on 7th May 2017
A 3m female white shark that was caught on a smart drumline at Ballina on 7th May 2017

BIG READ: LNP and ALP on their competing shark approaches

THE political war of words over Queensland's shark control program isn't abating following a federal court order preventing the culling of sharks caught on drumlines in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

One one side, the LNP says the program should be restored. On the other, the Queensland Government say they are unable to comply with the nine changes demanded by the court order.

Seeking to get to the heart of the issue, The Morning Bulletin requested detailed explanations from Fisheries Minister Mark Furner and LNP Shadow Minister for Fisheries Tony Perrett how they would approach the court ordered changes to the shark control program.

1. The current permit is to be varied to include a condition requiring the permittee (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority) to carry out the Shark Control Program in a manner that avoids, to the greatest extent possible, the lethal take of shark species.

Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Mark Furner in front of a shark control contractors boat, as Queensland's shark control program continues to be the centre of political debate. Lyndon Mechielsen/The Australian
Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Mark Furner in front of a shark control contractors boat, as Queensland's shark control program continues to be the centre of political debate. Lyndon Mechielsen/The Australian

Mr Furner: This is the fundamental condition that changes the Shark Control Program from a "catch and remove" (lethal) to "catch and release" (non-lethal). Catching and releasing sharks will not make swimmers safer. Two independent reports make it clear such a program will not be effective in the Great Barrier Reef

Mr Perrett: Maintaining an effective, modern shark control program in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is crucial to protecting lives and tourism jobs. The permit allows for a "catch and remove" shark control program provided the culling of sharks is avoided. Labor removing shark control measures not only puts swimmers at risk but impacts Queensland's international tourism reputation. The LNP has committed to a trial of SMART drumlines, which are a non-lethal shark control measure, and to an aerial surveillance program to keep swimmers safe.

2. The target shark list is to be removed from the current permit.

Mr Furner: Under the new permit, all sharks must be released wherever possible so the shark target list is no longer relevant.

Mr Perrett: A restarted shark control program will relocate dangerous species from controlled areas while complying with permit conditions.

3. The current permit is to be varied to ensure that the euthanasia of sharks caught on the drum lines is only to be undertaken on animal welfare grounds, specifically when a shark is unlikely to survive release due to its condition or an injury, or which cannot be safely removed alive due to weather conditions or hooking location.

Mr Furner: All sharks should be released wherever possible. Shark Control P

rogram contractors are not trained and do not have the equipment to safely do this currently. Two independent reports make it clear this will put swimmers in the Great Barrier Reef at greater risk.

Mr Perrett: The Federal Government has offered financial and technical assistance to the Queensland Government to implement the permit requirements in a reasonable time. Labor have refused the Federal Government's offers of

assistance and also refused to apply for a 'time-staged' or 'two-stepped' approach to implementing the tribunal's conditions. There is nothing in the court ruling requiring wholesale changes to be enforced immediately. Labor's reckless decision to instantly remove the drumlines without a plan B needs to be reversed.

Shadow Fishies Minister Tony Perrett believes the LNP has the right approach.
Shadow Fishies Minister Tony Perrett believes the LNP has the right approach.

4. The current permit is to be varied to ensure sharks are attended to as soon as possible when captured on drum lines, preferably within 24 hours.

Mr Furner: This servicing would include removing large dangerous sharks and releasing them alive.

Mr Perrett: SMART drumlines, which will be trialed by the LNP, send an alert when a shark has been captured on the line. This measure will allow for rapid responses by authorities. Sharks will be tagged, relocated and monitored, just like in New South Wales.

5. The current permit is to be varied to ensure all tiger, bull and white sharks caught on drum lines are tagged, using best available technology, before being released so that their movements may be monitored and researched;

Mr Furner: This condition still requires us to release large, dangerous sharks alive in areas where people swim. Two independent reports make it clear that this will not be effective in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Mr Perrett: The Great Barrier Marine Park Authority has advised there is nothing in the reissued permit negating Queensland's obligations under health and safety laws. Procedures deemed not to be acts of veterinary science can be exempt under regulations, which Labor Minister Mark Furner has the power to change without requiring a Parliamentary vote.

6. The current permit is to be varied to ensure tagged sharks be relocated off shore, where possible, and not at site of capture.

Mr Furner: The Cardno report found that there are significant challenges with catching and releasing sharks and the use of SMART drumlines in the Great Barrier Reef region. Where SMART drumline trials have been undertaken in New South Wales and Western Australia, sharks can be released further offshore where there are no water users. However, in much of Queensland's north, this is complicated because many offshore areas where sharks would be released are frequented by swimmers or other water users. This is further supported by recent tagging in the Whitsundays where sharks return to the same location where they were caught and tagged (Biopixel interim report).

Mr Perrett: The LNP will deliver a modern shark control program using non-lethal SMART drumlines. The advice provided in evidence to the tribunal by Queensland's own expert shark witness, Associate Professor Daryl McPhee (who also prepared the Cardno report), said that if the shark control program became non-lethal tomorrow, there would be "no discernible change in unprovoked shark bites, in particular fatalities". The Minister is citing the Cardno report, which was prepared by Associate Professor Daryl McPhee who said there'd be no change in the program if it was modernised.

7. The current permit is to be varied to ensure SMART drum lines are trialled and implemented on a progressive basis as soon as reasonably possible.

Mr Furner: The Cardno report, which had a range of scientific contributors including Associate Professor Daryl McPhee, found that so-called SMART drumlines would not be effective in the Great Barrier Reef. We will not implement a measure that science tells us won't work. Releasing tagged live sharks near the area they were caught will do nothing to remove the risk posed to swimmer safety. That is what Queensland Fisheries is required to do under this new permit.

The SMART Drumline in the water at Gracetown in Western Australia.
The SMART Drumline in the water at Gracetown in Western Australia.

Mr Perrett: The LNP's plan for a modern shark control program with SMART drumlines has been backed by the Humane Society International. Mark Furner is lying - the advice provided in evidence to the tribunal by Queensland's own expert shark witness, Associate Professor Daryl McPhee, said that if the Shark Control Program became non-lethal tomorrow there would be 'no discernible change in unprovoked shark bites, in particular fatalities". Currently tourists and residents have absolutely no protection because Labor have completely halted the shark control program without a Plan B.

8. The current permit is to be varied to include a condition that requires research to be conducted into alternative non-lethal shark control measures.

Mr Furner: The government has committed $1 million per year into trialling alternatives. Trials of alternatives will be informed by the Scientific Working Group and a review of alternatives undertaken by Cardno, a leading engineering, environment and design consultancy. However, alternatives need to be appropriate for Queensland, not just taken from other States where conditions are different. We will not support measures that science tells us will not be effective.

Mr Perrett: The LNP will deliver a modern shark control program to protect tourism jobs and the Reef. The LNP Government will also partner with James Cook University to deliver aerial surveillance using drones to keep swimmers safe. This is on top of the LNP's commitment to trial of SMART drumlines. Queenslanders can't afford to wait for Labor to trial alternatives without a shark control program to protect swimmers. The LNP is committed to seeing immediate solutions put in place.

9. The current permit is to be varied to include a condition requiring research be conducted into the tiger shark population.

Mr Furner: The government had agreed to this at the AAT hearing.

Mr Perrett: The LNP backs research that will help deliver a modern shark control program. We have already announced a plan to partner with JCU to deliver an aerial surveillance program using drones.



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