Australia permits shark demise despite international obligations
Humane Society International was extremely concerned to learn that two juvenile great white sharks were killed on baited drum lines off the Gold Coast last week. Great whites are protected under state and federal legislation nation-wide, yet both the Queensland and NSW governments sanction the deaths of many of these and other threatened species through their Shark Control Programs.
“The Qld and NSW shark control programs have passed their use-by dates,” said Danielle Annese, HSI Program Manager. “Since their inception, they have together been responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of sharks whose populations have plunged to extremely low levels since the program was first implemented in NSW 70 years ago. It is going to be an uphill battle to recover these species if the Qld and NSW Governments insist on continuing to fund and maintain culling programs.”
While the NSW government invests in the vicinity of $750,000 annually on its beach meshing program, Queensland maintains a double-barrelled approach to culling this threatened species by employing both shark nets and baited drum lines in their shark control program. Nearly 150 great whites were captured in these two programs between 1993 and 2003, 60 of which were caught on Qld’s drum lines.
Despite bring protected in state and federal waters, an exemption exists for the take of great whites in shark control programs for the purposes of public safety. This is in stark contradiction to Australia’s international obligations to protect the species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS). Ironically, at the same time that the continued mortality of great whites is permitted in our shark control programs, Australia is negotiating an agreement under the CMS to further the international protection of migratory sharks, including great whites.
“The great charade is that neither program provides a conclusive barrier between the sharks and the swimming public,” said Ms Annese. “Sharks are essentially lured into the vicinity of baited drum lines. In the case of shark nets, it is a well-known fact that 40% of shark entanglements actually occur on the beach side of the nets because sharks are able to swim over and around them; hardly a statistic that would be comforting to the public who are being misled into believing they are ‘protected’ from the sharks.”
Worse still is the death toll for bycatch species, with 1,485 harmless marine animals, being caught and killed in the NSW program alone between 1995 and 2004. These include numerous critically endangered grey nurse sharks, the loss of even one of which is considered a significant impact on the remaining population.
“HSI has long been of the opinion that bycatch of marine species in these programs is unacceptable,” said Ms Annese. “Both the Qld and NSW Governments are aware of the immense bycatch being inflicted on hundreds of harmless animals every year. It is not uncommon for turtles, dolphins, or even whales to fall victim to these programs, yet these statistics are ignored in favour of maintaining the pretence that they are protecting the public. There must be an immediate end to these antiquitous programs as a matter of priority.”