Staggering cost of ‘humane’ shark drum lines
SHARK drum lines that would see the catch and release of potentially lethal predators could cost up to $100,000 per day, if installed at the Great Barrier Reef, a tribunal has heard.
Environmentalists from the Humane Society International have launched a legal challenge aimed at stopping the legal killing of sharks in the world-heritage listed marine park after an updated license for the catch-and-kill program was amended in July last year, meaning 19 species of sharks could be euthanised if snagged on shark baits.
More than 170 government drum lines, at 27 separate locations, were installed after permission was granted by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority in 2017.
The environmental protection group applied to the Queensland Administrative Appeals Tribunal to have the Authority's decision set aside, claiming it is inconsistent with laws designed to protect the reef and is leading to habitat destruction.
They also claim the detrimental impact the shark culls are having on the reef's ecosystem is not justified because there is no clear science to show the program actually reduces attacks.
The Queensland Government has run a shark control program since 1962, the hearing heard.
The program largely uses bait and hooks to lure sharks from swimming spots along the state's coast.
At the Great Barrier Reef, those deemed the most dangerous and likely to be involved in "human interactions" - largely tiger sharks - are euthanised every few days as the baits are checked.
NSW and WA both have similar programs to prevent shark attacks but use Shark Management Alert in Real Time (SMART) drumlines that see those caught released shortly after being snagged.
In a hearing held in Brisbane today, barrister for the Humane Society, Saul Holt told the court 144 tiger sharks had been killed by the State Government program across the past decade and the "lethal aspect" of the current baiting project was the subject of the hearing.
He said there was currently a less than two per cent fatality rate from shark attacks in Australia per year.
"No other state or territory in Australia uses a lethal program," he said.
Mr Holt called the program "out of step" and said the Humane Society was asking "why is the Queensland Government killing sharks if there is no evidence to show it makes Queensland any safer?"
Barrister for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Matthew Hickey, told the tribunal there was no contention sharks posed a threat to human beings.
He said the current Queensland shark program costs $4 million annually but a SMART drumline solution would cost more than ten times that figure.
Under cross-examination, shark scientist William Robbins conceded there were significantly less SMART drumlines being installed in Western Australia than the number which would be needed in the Great Barrier Reef alone.
The court heard the daily cost to WA for the SMART drumlines, being installed on an 11.5KM stretch of coast, was about $6,000.
Mr Hickey told the court, given there were currently 170 locales at the Reef using the strategy, installing the new SMART drumlines would cost "in the order of $100,000 a day".
Mr Robbins told the tribunal one cost-efficient solution would be only to install SMART drumlines at the most populous beaches before expanding.
He told the hearing a lethal control program was not needed to protect swimmers as there was no evidence to show reducing the number of sharks reduced the number of attacks.
"The tangible risk of sharks and shark bites is one in millions, something equivalent to winning Gold Lotto," Mr Robbins said.
He said there was only one shark fatality in the State in the past seven years, which occurred at Cid Harbour last year.
The hearing continues.