You’d be forgiven for thinking that the very existence of national environmental laws creates an obligation on Environment Ministers to protect the environment. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Instead, their obligations are limited by the objects and duties that are specified in the law. And in the case of our...
The Administrative Appeals Tribunal ruled in favour of HSI, but the QLD Government has now appealed the decision
Queensland’s Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) ruled in favour of HSI in our court case against the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) over shark culling in the Great Barrier Reef. HSI challenged the issuance of a 10-year permit by GBRMPA for Queensland Fisheries to operate 173 lethal drumlines within the boundaries of the World Heritage listed-Reef.
We argued that issuing this permit was in direct violation of the most basic tenets upon which the Marine Park Authority was founded, namely, to preserve the ecological viability of the Reef. Killing off its apex predators in the name of public safety is not a policy in line with this mandate.
The Tribunal stated that their ruling was decided by 2 arguments:
1. The lethal component of the Shark Control Program had a deleterious effect on the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem through the removal of apex predators, namely, Tiger Sharks.
2. The lethal component of the Shark Control Program does not reduce the risk of unprovoked shark interactions.
With this decision, for the first time in 60 years, the killing on the Reef had ended.
The lethal component of the Shark Control Program was finished, the target list thrown out, and drumlines would have been checked every day. Tiger Sharks, bull sharks, and white sharks were to be tagged and relocated; and all other animals to be immediately released.
The win for sharks was short lived.
Instead of taking an opportunity to heed the AAT’s mandates and adopt a non-lethal policy for the Shark Control Program, Queensland Minister for Fisheries Mark Furner and Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Clair Andersen have submitted an appeal to the Federal Court of Australia. Minister Furner even went so far as to solicit assistance from Federal Environment Minister Melissa Price.
In light of the QLD Government’s appeal, an application was submitted to the Federal Court to suspend the orders mandated by the AAT until the appeal process could be completed. During an interlocutory hearing last Friday (12/4), the application was granted. Queensland will continue killing sharks in the GBR for the time being.
While the final outcome of our legal challenge to shark culling in the Great Barrier Reef remains to be seen, we can all take encouragement and inspiration from the AAT’s decision. It was proven in a court of law that killing sharks causes harm to the Great Barrier Reef. Furthermore, it was also proven that killing sharks does not decrease the risk of a shark/human interaction. Testimony provided by expert witnesses, including from the QLD government’s own expert, gave evidence of this fact; evidence that the Tribunal found to be “overwhelming”. These facts cannot be challenged during the appeal, it is an appeal based on legal technicalities.
This appeal displays the ignorance and complacency with which Queensland has been operating the lethal SCP for all this time. If the QLD Government was truly prioritising public safety, it would abandon policies experts unanimously testify to be ineffective and invest in programs that could actually make a difference. Education, technology driven alert systems, and personal shark deterrent subsidies provide non-lethal alternatives that are more effective at protecting human lives. The QLD government has been complacently relying on culling and not investing in these new more effective technologies.
Last year saw three horrible incidents in Queensland’s Whitsunday Islands in the space of just a few months. Culling a random selection of sharks within the waters of the now infamous Cid Harbour would have done very little to prevent these incidents. However, if those 3 victims knew what locals know: that Cid Harbour is known to have shark activity and not an appropriate site for swimming, they could have easily been avoided. The QLD Government dismisses education as “basic” and fights tooth and nail to continue the killing. If it actually cares about protecting human lives, it must drop this farcical appeal and get to work.
Federal court cases are expensive and we are a charity with limited funds. Donate to HSI’s fighting fund for sharks so we can defend marine wildlife in the Great Barrier Reef at the Federal Court appeal.
A marine ecologist specialising in conservation, research and outreach, Lawrence has spent years working with wildlife, the ocean and the public to engender sustainable relationships between them. He has worked as a field biologist, environmental consultant, naturalist and project coordinator with a BA from the University of San Diego, and an MSc from James Cook University. Lawrence’s work at HSI is currently focused on shark welfare and protection, specifically in regards to culling and control programs, over exploitation, and international protection.