Shark nets to make shock return to Queensland waters
SHARK nets and drumlines will be redeployed in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park after a spate of attacks, including a deadly mauling in the Whitsundays.
It comes after the Federal and State Governments agreed on a plan to "ensure human safety is our overriding priority'', with the $5 million program to be announced today and rolled out across the state's north - including the Whitsundays - within two weeks.
It is a blow to marine conservationists who convinced the Federal Court last year to uphold an Administrative Appeals Tribunal decision to stop the installation of lethal drumlines and nets in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
The State Government removed 160 lethal drumlines from Gladstone to north of Cairns after the decision, arguing it could not comply with new catch-and-release requirements.
Shark control measures are expected to return to Mackay beaches later in February.
Tourism operators in the Whitsundays reported significant declines over summer as families stayed away after six shark attacks in the past 14 months, including one that killed Melbourne man Daniel Christidis.
The Whitsundays, which has never before had permanent drumlines, will get $1 million to assist in shark management, which may include real-time alerts through a smartphone app and drone surveillance.
An initial $4 million will help support the "transition to non-lethal shark control measures" in the marine park, including SMART drumline trials, rebates to councils to install swimmer safety netting, drone surveillance and swimmer education.
The State Government previously argued SMART drumlines - which send an alarm when a shark is hooked so they can be released - would not work in Queensland because of the high concentration of swimmers and other water users.
It also argued the program's workers were not trained to catch and release sharks.
But the State Government is now embracing the technology after new research showed it could target dangerous species including tiger and bull sharks.
Fisheries mapping data shows the area around the Whitsundays has one of the highest concentrations of tiger and bull sharks in the country.
Queensland Fisheries Minister Mark Furner said the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority had issued an amended permit that took into account workplace health and safety issues for state shark control contractors, allowing them to kill the sharks if necessary.
"Contractors will check drumlines regularly,'' he said. "Other shark species will be released at the site of their capture. If it is unsafe for the contractor, or there are animal welfare concerns, the sharks will be euthanised.''
Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley said human safety was a key priority and the Federal and State Governments had "worked hard to come up with a solution''.
Queensland Tourism Industry Council chief executive Daniel Gschwind said he was happy a solution had finally been reached and the decision allowed an environmentally conscious approach and restore tourist confidence.