Anglers outrages at sneaky shark thieves
THE Queensland Government has responded to criticism of its shark control program from anglers contending with an infuriating spike in lost and half-eaten catches.
Fishermen have always had to run the gauntlet with sneaky bull sharks and black tip whalers raiding their lines in the waters off Cairns - but a clear spike in recent months has their patience wearing thin.
Erskine's Tackle World manager and Cairns Post fishing columnist Robert Erskine has witnessed the population boom out on popular fishing reefs and said shifting to different locations was pointless.
"The sharks are following the boats around," he told the Cairns Post yesterday.
The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries has now responded - and an increase on shark catch limits is not on the table.
"Queensland's Shark Control Program operates to increase safety at the state's most popular swimming beaches," a department spokeswoman said.
"It's operations have nothing to do with fishing and it has never operated for the purpose of reducing the number of sharks in the ocean.
"There is a 600-tonne total allowable commercial catch of shark in Queensland waters.
"However in 2018 only 25 per cent of the allowable catch was utilised and, to date, only 11 per cent of the 2019 allowable catch has been utilised."
The State Government controversially removed all of the 160 shark drumlines from the Great Barrier Marine Park earlier this year following a federal-court decision calling for them to be replaced with more humane, "smart" drumlines that allow for catch-and-release.
That sparked a wave of criticism including a joint statement from the heads of Tourism Tropical North Queensland and Tourism Whitsundays and the Queensland Tourism Industry Council saying the shark deterrents never needed to be removed.
They also called for aerial shark spotters, netted swimming areas and SMART drumlines along the reef.
"We urge all parties in this discussion to determine the way forward without unintended further damage to the travelling public's perception about the exposure to risk when visiting the Great Barrier Reef," they wrote.
"Any unnecessarily alarming publicity has the potential to further damage a perception-driven tourism industry."
The State Government in October announced a total of 16 drumlines would be redeployed at Trinity Beach, Yorkeys Knob and Holloways Beach, which fell outside the federal marine park jurisdiction.
None were installed at Ellis Beach despite it being by the Far North's most shark-prone swimming spot, with 60 of the predators caught on drumlines in the past five years.
Holloways Beach, which had the second biggest catch with 33 sharks, also missed out - along with Palm Cove (28), Buchans Point (23) and Clifton Beach (13).