Shock revelation about shark nets
THE Queensland government was poised to remove the state's controversial shark nets this year for the winter whale season until an 11th hour backflip.
The shark net program, which has long attracted criticism from environmentalists but served to keep Gold Coast beaches fatality free for more than 60 years before this week's shocking attack on Miami surfer Nick Slater, was to have been swapped out in June with a trial on new, alternative measures, but the move never went ahead.
The Sunday Mail can reveal that Fisheries Minister Mark Furner was scheduled to make the announcement at Sea World as the park celebrated its reopening from the coronavirus lockdown.
With its focus on marine science and a dedicated whale rescue crew, Sea World has long advocated for alternative measures to the shark control program, which came under fire earlier this year after a number of whales were tangled in nets.
However, by the day of the scheduled announcement, the State government had reconsidered the proposal, deciding instead to continue with the shark nets.
In a statement, Mr Furner on Saturday said the decision was about protecting lives.
"The safety of human life is the Government's highest priority," he said.
He declined to elaborate on exactly what measures would have replaced the nets, which would have come out of the water until the end of the whale migration in October, but it is understood increased aerial surveillance featuring drones and spotter planes was on the table along with an increase in baited drum lines.
The balance between human and marine life has been at the core of a long-running debate over the shark net program, but there were fears any fatal attacks at a Queensland beach after the removal of nets would have sparked widespread condemnation.
Mr Slater was killed by a 3.5-metre great white at Greenmount on Tuesday, the first fatality at a Gold Coast beach since the shark net program's introduction in 1962.
Greenmount is protected by a series of drum lines, but while it is a common misconception, there is no continuous net or barrier to sharks stretching the entire coast.
Instead, a series of small sections of net, measuring 186m long by six metres deep, are placed strategically along the coastline along with hundreds of baited hooks.
It is understood the temporary removal of nets would have coincided with a trial on new measures recommended in a report published in October last year.
The report, prepared for the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries by engineering firm Cardno, recommended a trial of aerial surveillance measures for beaches from the Gold Coast to Bundaberg where the water is clear and objects can be easily spotted from above.
In March, the Queensland shark control program's scientific working group recommended 'the replacement of some nets with drum lines over winter during the whale migration season'.
Originally published as Shock revelation about shark nets