Why drum lines ‘won’t work’ in the Whitsundays

IT WOULD be "near impossible" to operate shark drum lines throughout the idyllic Whitsundays because of a court ruling and the tourism hotspot's isolated location, Fisheries Minister Mark Furner has claimed.

Mr Furner yesterday said he had "no desire" to deploy temporary drum lines in the region, in the wake of the latest in a spate of shark attacks, but dodged questions about whether he felt safe swimming at a north Queensland beach.

But Deputy Opposition Leader Tim Mander said Labor had withdrawn drum lines, "which have protected swimmers for years and years".

"The Palaszczuk Labor Government has taken drum lines out of north Queensland with no plan B, leaving swimmers unprotected," he said.

British tourists Alistair Raddon, 28, and Danny Maggs, 22, were last night in stable conditions in Mackay Base Hospital after both being bitten by a shark while snorkelling at Hook Passage.

Mr Raddon lost his right foot and Mr Maggs suffered severe calf lacerations in the attack - the fifth shark mauling in the Whitsundays in less than a year.

Lethal drum lines have been the subject of intense political scrutiny ever since the State Government pulled 160 from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

The controversial decision has been slammed by both the Opposition and the Federal Government and came after the Federal Court upheld the Administrative Appeals Tribunal ruling that essentially required Queensland to abide by a catch-and-release program.


Fisheries Minister Mark Furner
Fisheries Minister Mark Furner


The Government has repeatedly insisted that a catch-and-release program was unfeasible because workers were not trained to deal with certain live sharks, and instead pulled the drum lines from the area.

Speaking in Cairns yesterday, Mr Furner said a shark-control program had never been operated specifically in the Whitsundays area of the Reef Marine Park.

Dodging a question about whether it was safe to swim at Palm Cove north of Cairns - where surf life­savers are ­begging the State Government to reinstall drum lines, as well as Ellis Beach - Mr Furner said it would be "near impossible" to operate a non-lethal drum line program in the Whitsundays.

He said the Government would be unable to ­readily service the equipment given its isolation, which would mean live sharks would be left languishing on the baits.

Trained officers would need to tend daily to the drum lines, known as SMART drum lines - which send an alarm when a shark is hooked - and a vet would need to accompany them. But most of the Whitsundays are far from the coast, including Hook Passage, which is 27.7km from Airlie Beach.

"There has never been a shark control program in operation in the Whitsundays," Mr Furner said.

"The only time last year in September was a short trial of seven days in the Cid Harbour area following the fatality and the two attacks."



Despite being "deeply concerned" that shark attacks could become a common ­occurrence, Mr Furner said that he had "no desire" to ­deploy temporary drum lines in the Whitsundays because of the difficulties of abiding by a catch-and-release program.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk initially would not comment on whether the attack had anything to do with the recent drum line ruling.

She said she was seeking more information.

"I do not know exactly where it happened so I am getting that information," she said.

"I'm not going to talk about the politics of drum lines today. My main concern today is for the welfare of these two people that have been injured by what appears to have been a shark attack."

But Ms Palaszczuk renewed calls for federal laws changes to allow the drumlines to put be back in.

"I will not shy away from my stance that the drumlines need to go back in," she said.

Since pulling 160, the ­Government has deployed 86 drum lines near the boundaries of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, including another 32 announced yesterday - six at Trinity Beach, five at Yorkeys Knob, five at Holloways Beach, 12 off Horseshoe Bay and four at Tannum Sands.

The decision to pull the drum lines, following the Federal Court ruling, which was brought by Humane Society International, has sparked a fierce political backlash.


A shark is caught on a drum line during a trial at Cid Harbour last September.
A shark is caught on a drum line during a trial at Cid Harbour last September.


Member for Whitsunday Jason Costigan said governments at all levels were failing to protect locals and tourists.

"We are going to have more and more of this ­happening until governments put public safety as their ­number one priority," he said yesterday.

Mr Costigan said he wanted Queensland's controversial shark control program beefed up and ­extended.

Neither Hook ­Passage nor Airlie Beach have ever been part of the shark-control ­program.

Environment Minister ­Sussan Ley has previously slammed the Government, claiming it had chosen "public alarm over personal safety".

In an extraordinary slap-down last month, Ms Ley said that removing drum lines so soon following the court's decision was a political stunt.

The Humane Society International said culling does not make swimmers safe.

"Installing more traditional drum lines to cull sharks is an ineffective knee-jerk reaction," the organisation said.

"It doesn't work. The science on this is crystal-clear."

In September 2018, 46-year-old Justine Barwick was attacked by a shark at nearby Cid Harbour.

The following day Melbourne schoolgirl Hannah Papps was also attacked in ­almost the same spot. Her leg had to be amputated.

Less than two months later Melbourne doctor Daniel Christidis, 33, was killed in a Cid Harbour shark attack.

Earlier this year Ryan Bowring, 25, came under attack at Line Reef.