'Shark nets are killers'
THE government has refused to answer The Gympie Times' questions regarding the amount of by-catch that is caught in shark nets off Rainbow Beach.
Maritime Safety Queensland, which now comes under the Department of Transport and Main Roads banner, instead responded with a statement saying the Shark Control Program was about saving lives.
This week Wolf Rock Dive operator Kev Phillips criticised the government's use of shark nets, saying they were unnecessary and killed a large amount of harmless sea creatures as by-catch.
He said the government should provide a breakdown of what was caught in the nets.
A departmental spokesman said the program made swimming at 85 popular beaches on Queensland's coast as safe as possible.
"Before the program was introduced in 1962, there were regular shark attacks along Queensland's coastline but in the past 50 years, there has only been one recorded fatal shark attack in a protected area," the spokesman said.
"Of the 117 sharks caught in equipment at Rainbow Beach from 2009 to 2011, only 10 were taken on baited drum lines while the rest were netted without use of baits."
The Times asked what the government was doing to help stop animals other than sharks being entangled and the spokesman gave us a long list of measures that were being undertaken.
"There have been promising results from 'pingers' with a significant reduction in the number of whales becoming entangled in shark nets.
"Following the introduction of pingers in 2010, the number of whale entanglements dropped from six in 2009 to one in 2010 and one in 2011. Both whales entangled in 2010 and 2011 were successfully released.
"In addition to pingers, we have a number of other measures in place to reduce by-catch.
"This includes using drum lines wherever possible, using bait which doesn't attract dolphins and turtles, and having teams of specialists patrol nets regularly.
"The Marine Animal Release Teams are trained to release marine animals, particularly during the whale migration season."
How they reduce by-catch
Drum lines are used instead of nets where possible.
Alternative baits are used to reduce dolphin and turtle capture.
Trials of different sizes and patterns of hooks to determine the loading limits of alternative baited line gear.
Releasing non-dangerous sharks.
Escorting whales past the nets by positioning vessels between the whales and the equipment during the humpback whale migration season (June to November).
Contractors are employed to check and service equipment at least every second day, and so are able to release by-catch where possible.
Surveillance cameras to monitor equipment including remote operated equipment for nets at Rainbow Beach.