Shark programs labelled ‘outdated’ amid recent sightings

After two reported shark sightings in as many days at a popular Coast beach an expert has warned current deterrents of nets and baited hooks are outdated and ineffective.

Surfer Brian Williams warned other surfers at Granite Bay on Sunday afternoon after he saw a shark chasing fish nearby.

"You're always aware when you're in the surf, especially during the late afternoon, and that (Granite Bay) point is quite a way out into the ocean," he said.

Every shark caught off southeast Qld coast this year

At first Mr Williams questioned if it was a dolphin but after he had a second and third glance at it he was convinced it was a shark.

"I had three looks at it, and it was heading towards us," he said.

"The three of us paddled to the rocks to get out of the water."

The experience left Mr Williams worried about where and when he surfs.

"I woke up at 2am this morning and just thought 'wow', it's a bit of a shock thinking what could have happened," he said.

On Saturday afternoon lifeguards were made aware of a shark sighting at Boiling Pot, also in the Noosa National Park, but the sighting could not be confirmed.

Brian Williams (top left) worries better education is needed to protect swimmers and surfers after he spotted a shark at Granite Bay on Sunday.
Brian Williams (top left) worries better education is needed to protect swimmers and surfers after he spotted a shark at Granite Bay on Sunday.

Shark population expert George Roff said Queensland's shark control program needed to be reviewed, following the recent sightings at popular surf beaches and the fatal shark attack at the Gold Coast on September 8.

The University of Queensland School of Biological Sciences researcher said baited hooks and nets were outdated technology which did not make beaches safer.

He said investment should be made in newer technologies instead, such as drones, that help control human behaviour.

"What we're seeing is more sharks being sighted closer to beaches, but that could be the case of warmer waters closer to shore, not having more sharks in the ocean," he said.

"First and foremost on all Queensland beaches is safety … but this reliance on nets and drum lines is ineffective.

"It may give people peace of mind, but that's an investment of $60 million a year in old technology."

Between 2019-20, 94 creatures were caught in drum lines and nets off the Sunshine Coast's north and southern beaches.

These included four scalloped hammerhead, 28 long nose whalers, four great hammerheads, nine tiger sharks, six bull whalers, one white shark and one weasel shark.

Rays, dolphins, whales and fish were also snared.

In 2018 Dr Roff led a study that analysed sharks caught on the hooks at Queensland's beaches over the past 55 years.

The numbers of great white, tiger, hammerhead and whaler sharks had dropped by between 74 per cent and 92 per cent, according to the catch data.

Following the death of 46-year-old real estate agent Nick Slater, the surfer who was bitten by a shark at Greenmount Beach on September 8, the State Government announced a trial of drones on five beaches.

Until November Surf Life Saving Queensland will trial drone patrols at Coolum Beach and Alexandra Headland.

Fisheries Minister Mark Furner said drones would be in the air every weekend, public holidays and every day during school holidays.

It's understood the trial will gauge the effectiveness of drones in backing up existing lifesaving activities, as they may not be efficient in spotting sharks during twilight hours at dawn and dusk.

Mr Williams suggested lifeguards could have a noticeboard or chalk board at the Noosa National Park beaches to warn surfers of any recent shark sightings.

Mr Williams is from South Africa where when he would go surfing they would have a "spotter" - a person standing on the roof of a car or at the top of the sand dunes keeping an eye out for sharks.

"Maybe there should be more education about how to deal with a shark and what to do if you see one," he said.

"We should control shark numbers and if there is a large, dangerous shark near a beach it should be removed."


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