Queensland shark plan could put swimmers at risk
A NON-LETHAL alternative to Queensland's shark-killing drum lines would be an expensive, impractical white elephant that could put swimmers at risk, a government-commissioned report has found.
The Courier-Mail can reveal the Palaszczuk Government commissioned a report into SMART drum lines in the weeks before environmentalists ultimately triumphed in their court bid to outlaw the state's lethal shark control program.
The authors of the Cardno report found SMART drum lines - which have a GPS tracker to alert authorities when a shark is caught so they can be released - were not a "practical solution throughout the state".
Each SMART drum line currently costs about $3500, with the report finding more than $1.3 million could need to be shelled out to replace current equipment and it would cost about $400 for each shark tag.
"Animal ethics issues associated with having appropriately qualified staff to apply acoustic tags to sharks will need to be considered and costs are likely to be prohibitive," the report said.
The report determined Queensland posed "significant practical challenges" when compared to WA and NSW, where trials have taken place, because swimmers frequent waters across much of the state and that limits the areas where sharks could be safely released.
"These challenges include the very large geographic coverage of the shark control program, the difficulty of predictable all-tide and all-weather access in some locations, and in some instances the difficulty of identifying locations that captured sharks can be subsequently relocated to," the report found.
"This is because of the large number of offshore islands and reefs that are also utilised by water users and make it untenable to relocate captured sharks closer to such areas."
Mackay, Townsville, Capricorn Coast and Cairns regions were deemed problematic for the equipment, with sharks caught off Mackay likely needing to be relocated closer to the popular Whitsunday Islands.
The Government removed 160 drum lines from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park after the Federal Court last month upheld the Administrative Appeals Tribunal ruling that essentially required Queensland to abide by a catch-and-release program.
According to the Government, the drum lines were removed because shark program workers were not trained to deal with live animals.
Fisheries Minister Mark Furner said catch-and-release was the wrong approach within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and the Federal Government needed to amend legislation to allow the lethal shark control program to continue.
The report found SMART drum lines could be deployed off the Gold Coast, North Stradbroke Island, Sunshine Coast, Rainbow Beach, Woongarra and Tannum Sands.
"We have concluded that there is a merit in a limited trial of SMART drum lines but to consider the replacement of all current drum lines with SMART drum lines is impractical at
this time," the report found.