Celebrating Biodiversity Month and Threatened Species Day
NSW & QLD bring severe risk to marine wildlife on National Threatened Species Day
September 7th is National Threatened Species Day and Humane Society International (HSI) is again calling on the NSW and Queensland Governments to change their policies on shark control to non-lethal methods, and ditch the killer nets. September 1st marked the day NSW shark nets were put back in the water where they will remain until April 2017. Over this time, we will see hundreds of marine species killed due to out-dated government policy, deaths which could be avoided with changes to non-lethal alternatives. In Queensland both nets and drumlines are in use all year round.
HSI Marine Scientist Jessica Morris said today, "Not only is September the start of the NSW shark meshing season, it is also National Biodiversity Month, an initiative that was first established by HSI's `Community Biodiversity Network' (CBN) in cooperation with the Commonwealth Department of the Environment in the mid-1990's. It is unfortunate that the month designed to celebrate and protect Australian wildlife also corresponds with a deliberate and significant attack on marine top-predators in the name of beach safety. This is not only occurring in NSW but in Queensland too, where nets and drumlines are a year round occurrence on beaches.
"There is significant research showing that killing sharks, which are widely recognised as among the most threatened group of species on the planet, does not reduce the risk of shark bite and is simply not the answer. We need further research, education and non-lethal options to help ocean users feel safer in the water, to understand the risks, and to recognise that sharks are an important marine species whose presence in the water is a natural occurrence. The majority of the time sharks and humans will be in the water together without any consequence to people's safety," Ms Morris continued.
"The fatal cost of shark nets extends to whales, dolphins and turtles and other non-target shark species that regularly get caught up in the nets, as we have seen in recent footage published by the ABC*. This is simply too high a price to nature to pay and comes at no real benefit for the public.”
The 2014/15 NSW shark meshing season resulted in the deaths of 4 grey nurse sharks, a federally listed and critically endangered species, with a likely population of only 1000 individuals on the east coast of Australia. Other protected species killed include threatened green and hawksbill turtles, common dolphins and threatened great white sharks. There were also over 130 interactions with harmless shark and ray species, including hammerhead sharks, which are known for their low survival rate after being caught in nets and on drumlines. The great and scalloped hammerhead sharks are recognised as threatened species under NSW and international conservation law.
The Queensland Shark Control program operates year round, and includes both nets and drumlines. The majority of QLD beaches with drumlines and nets had never experienced a shark interaction of any kind before their introduction. Marine stingers and a lack of surfing beaches, also negate the need for drumlines and nets along the QLD coast due to significantly less people in the water. So far in 2016, over 170 sharks have been caught and killed, including tiger sharks, an important species for reef health**. Last year, bottlenose dolphins, common dolphins and threatened indo-pacific humpback dolphins were caught and killed in the QLD netting program. Green, loggerhead and leatherback turtles were also captured and not all survived. Finally a threatened humpback whale was caught in nets off the Gold Coast. Although released alive, we do not know how the animal would have been affected by the capture.
Ms Morris concluded, "The NSW and QLD Governments must recognise and acknowledge the threat to a range of imperilled marine species due to shark nets up and down the east coast of Australia. Shark nets are already recognised as a "key threatening process” under NSW law and may shortly be assessed by the Commonwealth for their impact upon all marine life.
"Scientists have made clear that killing sharks DOES NOT make our beaches any safer***, and these lethal measures must be replaced by a range of alternatives with no ecological footprint, as soon as possible. Meanwhile HSI will continue to investigate the legality of existing 'beach netting' programs and maintain its pressure on governments to remove such ecologically damaging programs.”