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Queensland doesn’t track the effectiveness of its Shark Control Program

Shark nets and drumlines have been used in Queensland since 1962 in an attempt to keep beachgoers safe from sharks. Over the decades, the program has expanded, but otherwise changed very little. Community expectations, and scientific consensus on the other hand, have evolved in that time. The overwhelming consensus is now that these programs are ineffective, harmful, and even illegal.

These shifts have made shark culling, as conducted under the Queensland Shark Control Program (QSCP) a hot topic politically. The program is now a regular part of political discourse, both within the walls of parliament, and outside.

A recent bombshell during Budget Estimates in Queensland parliament, revealed yet another flaw in the outdated QSCP.

Greens MP Michael Berkman, took the Budget Estimates process as an opportunity to probe the extensive spending by the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries on killing sharks, as part of the QSCP.

People at the beach at Burleigh Heads Queensland
Reduction in shark-bite fatalities is due to improved medical practices not shark nets or drumlines. Location: Burleigh Head, Gold Coast QLD. Image Credit: Cleo Grace

During this process, the Department revealed that, despite the main intent of the QSCP being to reduce shark bites (as stated by the Department, and as mandated by the Fisheries Act 1994), the Department does not track shark bites in Queensland (Budget Estimates 2021, p69).

This bombshell means that the effectiveness of the program is not monitored or measured by the Department.

This revelation may have significant legal implications for the Department who may now be in breach of the Queensland Fisheries Act 1994. This is in addition to their breach of the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 for expanding and intensifying their program, in direct contravention of Section 43B.

Department representatives also thought, and stated in the record, that there had been zero non-fatal shark bites at beaches with nets or drumlines (Budget Estimates 2021, p68).

The true number is in fact, approaching 30, plus two tragic fatalities (QON 2021).

It is clear that the program does not reduce shark bites, and that any reduction in fatalities is due to improved medical practices. Now we also know the department does not even measure the program's effectiveness.

Where to for a program that operates in contravention to its own legal mandate, does not achieve its intended purpose, and is illegal under federal environmental law, yet continues to operate with political impunity?

We expect the status quo to continue for now, but for how long is up to you…

References and further information

Budget Estimates Hearing Transcript, 28 July 2021, Queensland, pp68-69, accessed online,

QON 2021, Response to a Question on Notice from Michael Berkman MP, Member for Maiwar, State Development and Regional Industries Committee - Report No. 11, 57th Parliament - 2021/2022 Budget Estimates

Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, Commonwealth of Australia,

Fisheries Act 1994, Queensland,

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