Shark attack fear: ‘Need to put drum lines back now’
LIFESAVERS blame a surge of shark sightings and beach closures in north Queensland on the ill-fated decision to remove baited drum lines.
Local identities fear the latest spike in shark activity poses a threat to human safety and the tourism industry.
"They need to put those drum lines back in right now,'' Cairns councillor Brett Olds, a volunteer lifesaver, said.
"It's not panic, it's common sense.
"Why dice with death?"
Eight patrolled beaches have been closed because of sharks at Port Douglas, Cairns, Townsville and Magnetic Island since the removal of drum lines just over 20 days ago.
It compares to a total of 15 closures last year in Great Barrier Reef Marine Park waters between Hervey Bay and Port Douglas.
There were a total of 56 beach closures due to shark sightings along the length of the Queensland coast in 2018.
On Sunday, a giant hammerhead shark swam about 10m off the beach through a patrolled area at Yorkey's Knob.
About 28 swimmers, most of them children, had to be called from the water and the beach shut for an hour.
The same day an almost 3m-long shark was caught by fishers off Palm Cove jetty.
Palm Cove Surf Life Saving Club vice-president Rob Pattinson said there was heightened anxiety about the looming shark threat.
"We didn't expect to see this increase in shark numbers so quickly," Mr Pattinson said.
"We've rarely had to close beaches up here before because of sharks.
"Now we've got big signs up on the lifeguard huts warning of stingers, crocodiles and sharks. Soon, no-one will go in the water.
"Why not continue with a shark control program that has worked for more than 60 years?"
Last month, a greens group won a court order to stop the lethal shark control program in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
State Government workers were not trained to deal with live sharks, so the drum lines were pulled.
Since baited drum lines were introduced in 1962, there's been only one fatal shark attack at a protected Queensland beach.
Prior to that there were 36 recorded cases of shark attack, and 19 deaths, dating back to 1912.
A Surf Life Saving Queensland spokeswoman said they had no evidence of a direct link between drum line removal and shark sightings.
Experts say other factors can include fish spawning, warmer water currents or sharks chasing schools of bait closer to shore.
"We can only speak to beach closures where sharks were sighted in relation to our patrols,'' a SLSQ spokeswoman said.
"And two of those were on the Strand in Townsville where drum lines are in place."
Cairns and FNQ Fishing Group administrator Dan Hammersely said the shark caught off Palm Cove jetty was a 2.7m tawny nurse - a relatively docile species with attacks on humans rare unless they were being handled.
But large bull sharks, tiger sharks and other aggressive species were known to frequent the area, he said.
"It's a big shark to catch there. I wouldn't say its out of the ordinary, it's a known shark area.
"But with protection of sharks it will become an ongoing issue.''