Court date set for challenge to shark culling in Great Barrier Reef

By : Humane Society International January 17, 2019

The Queensland Government's shark culling program within the Great Barrier Reef will be challenged in court by Australian charity Humane Society International on January 30, 2019.

Humane Society International is represented by Environmental Defenders Office NSW in the case, and is advocating for the removal of the 173 lethal drumlines installed throughout the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in favour of non-lethal measures to protect ocean users.

WHAT: Humane Society International Australia Inc v Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and QLD Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

WHERE: Administrative Appeals Tribunal, 6/295 Ann St, Brisbane City QLD 4000

WHEN: January 30, 2019 at 10AM

"The Great Barrier Reef is the crown jewel of Australia's seas, and killing its sharks is an unacceptable travesty that must end. Drumlines were first introduced in the 1960s, and since then there has been 60 years of progress in technology and our understanding of shark behaviour. There are better ways to protect ocean users that don't kill our marine wildlife,” said Nicola Beynon, Humane Society International's Head of Campaigns.

The Queensland Government was granted a 10-year permit for the 173 drumlines by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority in 2017.

Humane Society International will argue the decision is in conflict with the Authority's responsibility to protect the Reef as the lethal drumlines continue to kill sharks, turtles and rays. 

"As apex predators, sharks play a vital role in maintaining the health of the Great Barrier Reef. The lethal drumlines are catching and killing protected and harmless species that are important to the reef's overall health. The Great Barrier Reef is already under severe stress from climate change and the last thing it needs is a further assault on its ecology from its own management authority,” continued Ms Beynon.

According to the Queensland Department of Fisheries statistics there have been at least 578 animals caught on the drumlines in the Great Barrier Reef since July 2016. At least 432 of them drowned on the drumlines and at least 91 sharks were found alive and then shot dead by a contractor employed by the Queensland Government.

Humane Society International advocates the use of non-lethal methods to mitigate against the small risk of shark attack.

"It is difficult to think of anything less appropriate in a World Heritage listed Marine Protected Area than a lethal control program designed to kill species the area is set aside to protect. In addition to the ecosystem impacts, the expert evidence our client will present in this case will demonstrate that the lethal control program is not needed to ensure effective safety measures. In these circumstances, faced with the Queensland Government's insistence on continuing its cruel and inappropriate lethal program, our client Humane Society International has been left with no option but to pursue environmental justice in the Tribunal,” said David Morris, CEO of Environmental Defenders Office NSW.

The 10-year, lethal control program, targets 19 shark species, including threatened and protected species that call the Great Barrier Reef home.

Last year, the Queensland Government removed seven species from its shark control program target list following the initiation of legal action by Humane Society International

The drumlines are set with baited hooks to catch sharks. Those sharks that don't die on the hook, and are on the target list, are shot by a contractor employed to check the drumlines by the Queensland Department of Primary Industries.

Sharks that continue to be shot dead if found alive on a drumline in the Great Barrier Reef:

  • Australian Blacktip
  • Big Nose Whaler
  • Blue Shark
  • Bull Whaler
  • Common Blacktip Whaler
  • Dusky Whaler
  • Great Hammerhead
  • Grey Reef Whaler
  • Long Nose Whaler (Spinner Shark)
  • Longfin Mako          
  • Shortfin Mako
  • Oceanic Whitetip Whaler
  • Pigeye Whaler
  • Sandbar Whaler
  • Sharptooth Shark/ Lemon shark
  • Silky Whaler
  • Silvertip Whaler
  • Tiger Shark
  • White Shark

Most of these species are not known for unprovoked bites to humans.

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the most complex natural ecosystems on earth, and one of the most significant for biodiversity conservation. As a World Heritage listed site, Australia has a legal responsibility to ensure its protection.

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About HSI Australia

HSI concentrates on the preservation of endangered animals and ecosystems and works to ensure quality of life for all animals, both domestic and wild. HSI is the largest animal protection not-for-profit organisation in the world and has been established in Australia since 1994