Anger over sharks’ rights before swimmer safety

SWIMMERS will no longer be protected from sharks across some of Queensland's most popular beaches with the State Government now fearing for the lives of tourists and visitors.

Drumlines will be immediately removed from 27 beaches between Cairns to Gladstone after the Palaszczuk Government failed to appeal a shock court win by a greens groups in April.

It follows a spate of shark attacks - one fatal and two near fatal - around the Whitsundays last year.

The Government has now called on the Federal Government to rush in new laws to protect swimmers, with Tourism Minister Kate Jones claiming she was sure Prime Minister Scott Morrison didn't want "blood on his hands".



A shark hooked to a drum line off the coast off Magnetic Island. Picture: Humane Society International
A shark hooked to a drum line off the coast off Magnetic Island. Picture: Humane Society International


Agricultural Minister Mark Furner said the Government did not have grounds to appeal yesterday's decision.

"It is not possible for us to implement the new restrictions on the Shark Control Program within the marine park without putting our contractors in serious peril," he said.

"We will always put human safety first."

The new restrictions would have required the Government contractors to release any sharks caught on the 173 drum lines in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park that were still alive - euathanising sharks would only have been permitted on animal welfare grounds.

All tiger, bull and white sharks caught on drum lines would have needed to be tagged before release.

The Humane Society International launched a successful legal challenge earlier this year in a bid to stop sharks being euthanised in the marine park, after the Government was granted a permit which allowed 19 targeted sharks snared on drumlines to be killed.

In its appeal, the State Government argued that the Administrative Appeals Tribunal took an "unduly narrow approach to what constitutes evidence" and engaged more closely with the opinions of experts rather than the "non-scientific approach of the State".

"To act upon a belief that the so-called 'scientific' evidence trumped all other evidence simply because it could be so characterised, and so as to displace other kinds of evidence" was an error, the State Government argued in its appeal.


State Tourism Minister Kate Jones has called for federal laws protecting swimmers. Picture: Annette Dew
State Tourism Minister Kate Jones has called for federal laws protecting swimmers. Picture: Annette Dew


But the Federal Court of Australia did not agree.

"We do not accept the applicant's submission that in evaluating the scientific evidence, the Tribunal lost sight of the non-scientific approach or the objective fact as to the absence of fatalities," the court's judgement read.

"This is at best a complaint about the merits of the Tribunal's decision-making."

The State Government has been ordered to pay the group's legal costs.

Ms Jones said the tourism industry would be "deeply disturbed" by the decision.

"Obviously we're deeply concerned when it comes to the safety of tourists and visitors to the Great Barrier Reef by this decision, but I think … everyone should be mindful that this is Federal legislation and I'm sure the Prime Minister Scott Morrison does not want to have blood on his hands," she said.

When asked whether it would deter people from swimming, Ms Jones said the State Government would have to "work through those issues".

Mr Furner said the shark control program - with drumlines and shark nets - would continue outside the marine park.

He yesterday wrote to Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley, urging the Government to legislate to allow the state to continue its controversial program.

The LNP slammed the Government, insisting there was nothing in the ruling that compelled the removal of drumlines.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley said the federally-funded Great Barrier Marine Park Authority is currently reviewing the reasons for the decision and the full impact of the conditions imposed by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

She said while the over-riding priority was to protect human safety, there were options within the decision for the Queensland Government to do this in a humane way, such as those being trialled in other states

"This should be their immediate priority, regardless of the cost," she said.