New data has revealed more than 500 sharks have been caught off Queensland as a result of a controversial shark control program.
The majority of sharks were found dead and many others were euthanased over a 12-month period last year through the use of drumlines and nets.
Conservation groups say the Queensland government program, which was established more than 50 years ago, needs to be abolished.
Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) senior marine campaigner Tooni Mahto called the practice “inhumane and archaic”.
“Under the Queensland control program there are 26 species of shark which are listed as being a threat to humans. That’s totally nonsensical,” she said.
“What it means is that if any of those sharks are caught, they will be euthanased.
We believe that means they are shot. That seems like a very archaic way of dealing with sharks.”
In Townsville, 109 sharks were caught, while 90 sharks were caught on the Sunshine Coast, 58 on the Gold Coast, 54 in Bundaberg, 48 in Mackay and 47 in Cairns.
One tiger shark caught off Ellis Beach in Cairns measured 3.5 metres.
NSW swimmers use app to track sharks
Other species caught included the great hammerhead, long nose whaler and grey nurse.
In New South Wales, the state government is trialling the use of “smart” drum lines, which alert authorities when an animal is caught.
Sharks that are caught are tagged with satellite trackers and released.
Swimmers are then encouraged to use an app to see where the sharks are, before entering the water.
But the AMCS said the system was flawed because sharks still died.
“Some species can’t cope with being released after being caught. For example hammerhead sharks, when caught on hooks get very, very stressed,” Ms Mahto said.
‘The safety of swimmers is paramount’
The Queensland government told the ABC in a statement that its shark control program will continue, and the government “remains committed to the safety of Queenslanders and those tourists who visit and enjoy our beaches”.
“While we continue to monitor emerging technology, the safety of swimmers is paramount and until alternatives are found that work better in Queensland waters the program will continue,” the statement said.
In the last 55 years only one person has lost their life to a shark at a protected Queensland beach. That is one too many but sadly, no measures are foolproof.
“The safety of Queenslanders is our top priority and that any moves to remove the protections on our beaches will place lives at risk.”
“Eighty-five of Queensland’s most popular beaches are protected by nets or drumlines in a program that has been supported by successive governments since 1962,” the statement concluded.