A shark caught on the drumline on the Great Barrier Reef. Picture: Humane Society International
A shark caught on the drumline on the Great Barrier Reef. Picture: Humane Society International

State fights to keep controversial shark cull

A FINAL court bid to save a controversial state-run program to kill sharks in The Great Barrier Reef marine park has been attacked by animal campaigners as a waste of taxpayers' dollars.

The Palaszczuk Government will today head to the Federal Court to try overturn a federal tribunal decision forcing it to stop killing sharks caught on its drumlines in the marine park.

It will determine whether it can continue killing any of the targeted 19 shark species caught on its 173 drumlines - or baited hooks - positioned off beaches with in the marine park.

The powerful Administrative Appeals Tribunal in April ordered the Government stop killing sharks. Instead, drumlines must be monitored and healthy sharks released.

A later Federal Court decision later allowed the killings to continue pending the appeal.

In its April decision, the Tribunal sided with global animal welfare group Humane Society International, which mounted the legal challenge to the lethal Shark Control Program.

Endangered hammerhead sharks caught on drumlines near Magnetic Island. Picture: Humane Society International
Endangered hammerhead sharks caught on drumlines near Magnetic Island. Picture: Humane Society International

HSI argued there was no scientific basis to the Government's claim the lethal program cut shark attack risks other than on a "theoretical level" and the killings were therefore pointless.

The Tribunal agreed the lethal program "does not reduce the risk of unprovoked shark attacks."

"The scientific evidence before us is overwhelming in this regard," it said in its decision.

It pointed to the evidence of the state's own expert witness, Associate Professor Daryl McPhee, who told the Tribunal he would never recommend a lethal shark control program.

Mr McPhee said it was highly plausible there would be "no discernible change in unprovoked shark bites, in particular fatalities," if the lethal program were stopped.

HSI campaigner Lawrence Chlebeck yesterday attacked the appeal as a waste of taxpayers' funds.

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal agreed with HSI claims that the drumline program “does not reduce the risk of unprovoked shark attacks”.
The Administrative Appeals Tribunal agreed with HSI claims that the drumline program “does not reduce the risk of unprovoked shark attacks”.

He said it hinged on a legal technicality, but the "scientific ethical argument" had been won.

"We want people to be safe in the water and we know shark culling doesn't make people safe in the water so we are urging the Government to adopt non-lethal technologies that are more effective in protecting people," he said.

Fisheries Minister Mark Furner has staunchly defended the appeal, arguing the program had an "outstanding record" and would continue until an effective alternative was found.

The Government has set aside $1 million for trialling alternatives, with a Government scientific working group has already been looking into the use of non-lethal technologies.

HSI has labelled the research funding "paltry" compared to New South Wales' investment.