A shadow in the waters of Cid Harbour yesterday. Picture: Daryl Wright
A shadow in the waters of Cid Harbour yesterday. Picture: Daryl Wright

MP declares war on sharks as Premier dithers

UPDATE: THE Queensland Government won't consider a Federal MP's demand for a shark cull in the Whitsunday Islands following Monday's fatal mauling of a Victorian doctor.

The Courier-Mail had reported Member for Hinkler and former assistant trade and tourism minister Keith Pitt had called for open season on sharks, as the Queensland Government responds to calls for drumlines and nets by announcing a shark "roundtable" talkfest.

Mr Pitt said that as well as rolling out more shark nets and drumlines, there should be a shark cull.

Minister Mark Furner today categorically ruled out a cull as an option.

"By no reasons would I support a shark cull," Mr Furner told the ABC.

"That's way over the top. There's no science or reason behind that. There would be no guarantees of safety by introducing a shark cull."

Scott Morrison had this morning endorsed the right of his backbencher Keith Pitt to call for a shark cull in the Whitsundays.

But Mr Morrison said he would not express his view and would leave the debate over shark control to the State Government.

"The Commonwealth does not have responsibility in this area.

"I'm going to leave it to the local community and the State Government to respond to this issue.

"Let's not forget that some people lost their lives. That is a terrible tragedy and my sympathies go to their family and to their friends."

Tourism Minister Kate Jones yesterday announced the Government would host a roundtable meeting with tourism industry leaders and scientists in a bid to find a long-term solution to Cid Harbour's shark woes, following three attacks in as many months, the latest one fatal.

Ms Jones said nets and drumlines would not be used in the harbour, in line with advice from scientific experts.

 

EARLIER: A FEDERAL MP has called for open season on sharks, as the Queensland Government responds to calls for drumlines and nets by announcing a shark "roundtable" talkfest.

Member for Hinkler and former assistant trade and tourism minister Keith Pitt said that as well as rolling out more shark nets and drumlines, there should be a shark cull.

He called for contractors to be given an open permit to hunt the sea creatures initially without limit, which could be pared back to set limits once the shark population reduced.

"I've had the local fishos telling me the sharks are in plague proportion," he said.

"They are an apex predator and we should thin them out."

Mr Pitt said it would create jobs in the fishing industry, and lower the danger of attacks.

Katter's Australian Party leader Robbie Katter also said the idea was worthy of consideration, as he made calls for an "urgent and robust" review of the state's shark control program.

"Preventing people from being eaten while going for a swim is the kind of thing governments are meant to get right," he said.

Tourism Minister Kate Jones yesterday announced the Government would host a roundtable meeting with tourism industry leaders and scientists in a bid to find a long-term solution to Cid Harbour's shark woes, following three attacks in as many months, the latest one fatal.

Ms Jones said nets and drumlines would not be used in the harbour, in line with advice from scientific experts.

 

Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt
Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt

 

 

Latest victim Daniel Christidis
Latest victim Daniel Christidis

 

"Quite frankly, I'd much rather be on the side of listening to scientific experts than people throwing stones from the sidelines," she said.

"The tourism industry wants an opportunity to sit down with the scientific experts so that we can work together to take the best steps forward."

Fisheries Minister Mark Furner said drumlines were not an effective long-term solution due to the large supply of baitfish in the area.

Signs warning against swimming were already being installed around the harbour.

Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington dismissed the roundtable meeting as a talkfest and called for drumlines to be immediately rolled out at Cid Harbour.

"Labor need to explain why one of the only areas of Queensland that does not have drum lines or netting is the Whitsundays where there have been three tragic shark attacks in six weeks," she said.

"So it is borderline negligent that (Premier) Annastacia Palaszczuk's only response to these terrible events in the Whitsundays is to call a meeting."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was a matter for the State Government.

"We're happy to support in any way... but I'm going to leave that to the State Government authorities to manage this carefully in partnership with local communities," he said.

Data 'black hole'

SHARK experts have revealed a "gaping black hole" in shark data in the Whitsundays which needs to be fixed as a top priority following three horror attacks on tourists.

It comes with scientists still waiting for the State Government to order an urgent study amid widening calls for a cull of the deadly predators.

Expert Richard Fitzpatrick said locals are crying out to "fill a big hole" in the data around shark numbers, behaviour and movements in the Whitsunday region.

"Tourism bodies have asked us to help explain the spate of attacks,'' the marine biologist said.

"But there is just no scientific data for us to give anyone an answer. No shark research or tagging activity has ever been done in the Whitsundays."

Queensland's Fisheries Department and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority are yet to green-light any new shark research.

Mr Fitzpatrick said bull sharks, not tiger sharks, were the "most likely culprits" in the three Cid Harbour attacks.

"We need to get the science done before anyone can make any informed decision about chucking in baited hooks on drumlines,'' he said. "Tiger sharks don't do high-speed hit attacks, and judging by the nature of the attacks, and how they bite, the most likely culprits are bull sharks."

Six tiger sharks were shot dead after they were caught on drumlines set by fisheries officers after the two near-fatal September attacks.

Mr Fitzpatrick said a targeted cull of bull sharks involved a different method.

News Queensland understands there has also been no expert analysis of photographs of shark bites on the victims to determine the exact species behind the attacks.

Charter operators claim discarded fish carcasses and food scraps tossed overboard are to blame for the spike in shark numbers at Cid Harbour.

Additonal reporting Steven Scott & Peter Michael



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