The Courier-Mail


REVEALED Spotter drone trial left grounded


AERIAL shark surveillan­ce using drones and spotter planes remains grounded one year after a special investigat­ion urged their use. Less than 24 hours after the first fatal shark attack on Gold Coast beaches in six decades, Fisheries Minister Mark Furner said the government would not act “rashly”.

THE killer shark that claimed the life of a Gold Coast surfer slipped past a defence system that uses 2km of nets to protect a 57km coastline.

The controvers­ial shark net program, which had until Tuesday protected the Gold Coast beaches from a single fatal attack for more than 60 years, is far from the impenetrab­le fortress that some have long believed it to be.

In all, just 11 stretches of netting, each measuring less than 200m in length and 6m deep, are all that stands between surfers, swimmer and a shark population that fishermen and marine experts warn is experienci­ng a population boom.

The death of real estate agent Nick Slater at one of the Gold Coast’s safest and most beloved beaches, Greenmount Beach, has again ignited the shark net debate, with critics of the program calling for an urgent overhaul to protect the lives of humans and the marine creatures caught as collateral damage by nets and baited drumlines along the coast. There are just 27 shark nets at Queensland beaches, along with almost 400 baited drumlines. There are no shark nets directly off Greenmount Point, though there are several drumlines, while there is a net at neighbouri­ng Coolangatt­a.

Bond University shark expert Daryl McPhee said “a perfect storm” of scenarios had contribute­d to Tuesday’s attack at a beach generally regarded as one of the safest on the Gold Coast.

“It is the whale migration where there are typically more great whites around … it was late in the afternoon … (and) there were a lot of bait fish in the water,” he said.

“The nets are not designed to be enclosures – they are not some magical barrier that separates people from sharks.

“They are designed to reduce the abundance of sharks and to disrupt a shark’s behavioura­l patterns so they will go somewhere else.”

Documentar­y director Andre Borell, who has recruited Hollywood star Eric Bana to narrate the soon-tobe-released film Envoy: Shark Cull, said it was ridiculous to continue to rely on a program installed almost 60 years ago.

“It’s totally unacceptab­le that our government continue to use safety measures from 1962 that have no scientific backing whatsoever,” he said.

He said there had been almost 30 shark attacks at Queensland beaches protected by either shark nets or drumlines.

“That’s far from successful at keeping people safe and to claim it has been a success is deceptive to the public.”

He said drone technology, which makes it easier to identify sharks in the water, and netted swimming enclosures, such as those used in calm

It’s unacceptab­le that our government continues to use safety measures from 1962

Andre Borell

water along the Gold Coast Broadwater and in North Queensland, would be more effective at protecting both humans and marine animals.

His comments were backed by shark net critic Dr Olaf Meynecke, who has gathered more than 130,000 signatures for a petition calling for the removal of shark nets during the whale migration season, from June to October, saying “the shark net methods are not a guarantee for safety”.

He said drones, which are being trialled at beaches across the country, could report warning signs, such as the presence of large schools of bait fish, believed to be in the water at the time of Tuesday’s attack.

He also called for more ‘smart’ drumlines, which allow hooked sharks to be tagged and released alive.

It comes as commercial fisheries in the Tweed and Gold Coast areas have reported seeing a rise in the shark population­s within the last decade, including Robin Passmore of Markwell Fisheries who has heard reports ranging as far south as Newcastle.

“It’s really been a prolific rise in the past 5-10 years,” Mr Passmore said. “It’s hard to go past the nets sometimes because of what might happen – some have just stopped it”

The sentiment was echoed earlier this year by Commercial fishing industry spokesman Michael Thompson, who claimed the Department of Fisheries “was ignoring” concerns about the shark population boom.

“They’ve created an imbalance of biodiversi­ty by protecting … the top end of the food chain, which is the sharks, and (allowing) you to harvest the rest,” he said.

Multiple fishing charter operators along the Tweed believe the increase could be due to the growing whale population that migrate through Queensland waters each year.

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11.29, 22.29, 14.36, 13.00,
 ??  ?? A great white shark (clockwise from above), a buoy for shark nets and swimmers swim inside the shark net enclosure at Cottesloe Beach.
A great white shark (clockwise from above), a buoy for shark nets and swimmers swim inside the shark net enclosure at Cottesloe Beach.

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