TANGLED UP: This sub-adult bottle nose dolphin was killed in shark nets off Noosa's Main Beach recently.
TANGLED UP: This sub-adult bottle nose dolphin was killed in shark nets off Noosa's Main Beach recently. Contributed

Environment council wants our shark nets removed

SHARK nets between Rainbow Beach and Bribie Island have caught 70 dolphins, eight whales, six dugongs, 129 turtles and 132 rays in the past 10 years.

Of those, 84% of the dolphins were dead and all of the dugongs. The nets also caught 24 critically endangered grey nurse sharks, which were all dead.

These figures have been quoted by the Sunshine Coast Environment Council in its argument against the use of shark nets during the humpback whale migration season.

"Shark nets were first introduced by the Queensland government in 1962 to reduce the number of sharks at popular beaches," SCEC co-ordinator Leah Hays said.

"Unfortunately they haven't reviewed this flawed policy since, despite compelling evidence that sharks are a migratory species that simply and regularly swim under and around the 186m long nets, which is why the equipment is ineffective and creates a false sense

of security for beachgoers," she said.

"With the knowledge we have of shark movements, as well as hard evidence on the devastating marine life bycatch we're seeing all up and down the Queensland coast, the argument to continue using this outdated and damaging technology introduced in the 60's is no longer valid. Especially while other alternatives exist that will contribute to beach goer safety while reducing harm to marine life."

SCEC says that in the ten year period spanning January 2007 to December 2016, 418 non-shark species were captured on shark nets in areas spanning from Bribie Island to Rainbow Beach. Of these, 53% were found deceased, with post release mortality due to stress and injury of the other 47% unknown. Of these statistics, the following bycatch was recorded:

● 70 dolphins (84% deceased)

● 8 Whales (all released alive)

● 6 Dugongs (100% deceased)

● 129 Turtles (10% deceased)

● 132 Rays (56% deceased)

● 73 Tuna (97% deceased)

● 24 Grey Nurse Sharks (100% deceased)

"A stark statistic is that almost never reported are the deaths of the Federally protected and critically endangered Grey Nurse Sharks in Queensland, most of these occurring in Sunshine Coast waters." Local marine biologist Chad Buxton points out. "Even one death has a significant impact on the population of these gentle sharks and the current catch rates by the shark nets are not sustainable or acceptable."

"The Queensland government's responsibility extends beyond public safety to obligations to protect Federally listed and endangered marine life. We need to adopt the smarter technology available rather than defaulting to an old argument with no scientific credibility," Miss Hays states.

The Sunshine Coast Environment Council says it wants to see a dedicated education campaign.

"The NSW government is removing shark nets during winter months to avoid entanglement by migrating Humpback whales and that's what we'd like to see here in Queensland. In just the last month, three whales have been caught in shark nets and discarded rope in south east Queensland, including one whale calf which died off the Gold Coast last week. A bottlenose dolphin also drowned after being caught in a shark net off Noosa on the 15th of June. Shark nets are indiscriminate killers. Animals that have 'died on the line' essentially become bait, arguably attracting sharks, rather than deterring them."

SCEC are asking for the 14 shark nets currently deployed along Sunshine Coast and Rainbow Beach waters to be removed this Humpback season to avoid further entanglements. SCEC are also seeking immediate first responder training for life guards and life savers to ensure a swift response should marine megafauna become entrapped in existing nets.

SCEC will be meeting with both the Noosa and Sunshine Coast Council's in the coming months to provide evidence on bycatch data, and discuss ways forward at a local level to improve education, dismantle public perception and fear, and gain support from both councils to have the nets removed during Humpback Whale migration season and replaced with non-lethal technology.

The public hearing is on this Monday 31st July from 9am - 1pm at Catalina de Havilland Room Royal on the Park, 152 Alice Street, Brisbane.

Gympie Times

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