Minister Furner once again misrepresents shark science for political ends

By : Humane Society International October 25, 2019

by Lawrence Chlebeck

Queensland Fisheries Minister Mark Furner is making out he has another report to prove his claim that catching and releasing sharks won't work for swimmer safety. However, the Minister's claims are again misleading and disingenuous.

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), in a ruling upheld by the Federal Court, has issued an order for Minister Furner to stop shooting sharks caught on drumlines in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

The AAT ordered that sharks hooked on drumlines should be tagged and relocated offshore. This is the practice in NSW where they find target sharks do not return to shore.

Minister Furner is today claiming this won't work in Queensland because tagging and releasing sharks for the purposes of research at Cid Harbour in the Whitsundays shows the sharks have stayed in the area. This is because the Cid Harbour researchers were tagging and releasing sharks in situ and were not relocating them.

"It is little wonder sharks were found in the same area. The research at Cid Harbour is not relocating the sharks”, said Lawrence Chlebeck, Marine Campaigns at Humane Society International.

"Minister Furner is twisting science to suit his political game playing with the Federal Government on this issue”said Mr Chlebeck.

"Earlier this month the Minister falsely claimed that a report by Cardno Research also backed up his theory that non-lethal technology to manage swimmer safety wouldn't work in Queensland, when anyone who read the report would have seen this was plainly not true”.

The AAT found the scientific evidence that culling sharks does not reduce the risk of a shark bite to be 'overwhelming'. The Minister's own expert scientific witness agreed with this on the stand. This is a critical point that the Minister and some in the media insist on ignoring.

87% of 5900 respondents to a 60 Minutes poll this week have said sharks should be protected and not culled. Only 13% supported culling. 

"Humane Society International cannot fathom why Minister Furner is so hell bent on killing sharks when legal and scientific fact, and community opinion does not support it,” said Mr Chlebeck.

"As at 1.40pm Minister Furner has issued 34 media releases on sharks in the last 5 weeks. Humane Society International says time would be better spent working with his Department so that drumline contractors can be trained to implement the AAT orders.”



The Biopixel researchers describe their research as follows:

"For tagging, caught sharks were placed belly up long the side of the boat, and acoustic transmitters were surgically implanted into the body cavity through a small incision. The incision was then sealed with surgical sutures and the shark released.” 


The experience from NSW tag and relocation program is as follows:

"Between 2 December 2015 and 9 September 2018, SMART drumlines were used to intercept, tag and relocate 370 dangerous sharks, including 300 White Sharks, 43 Tiger Sharks and 27 Bull Sharks. Once a shark is tagged and it is relocated approximately 1km offshore.

Sixty-two per cent of these sharks were detected on the network of 21 listening stations (VR4Gs) deployed along the NSW coastline; 211 White, 13 Bull, and 4 Tiger Sharks. DPI provides alerts to the community about the presence of these tagged sharks via the SharkSmart app and Twitter feeds.

Sharks that are tagged and relocated move away from the coast for an average of 74 days before they are again detected on a VR4G. Post-release, the distance of the shark from the tagged location to the location of the VR4G was an average of 165km.

This provides us with confidence that SMART drumlines are effective in removing the immediate risk to beach users at that beach and other nearby beaches for several months." Smart Drumlines FAQsTrials and Research - Smart Drumlines 


The Cardno Report says a SMART drumlines would be suitable to trial in the QLD Shark Control Program including the North of the program in the Great Barrier Reef:


The Cardno Report said "We have concluded that there is merit in a limited trial of SMART drumlines,” and that Rainbow Beach and Tannum Sands, beaches adjacent to the GBRMP, "represent a good opportunity to conduct a relatively cost-effective trial at an appropriate scale.”

The Cardno report also discusses other non-lethal strategies which the AAT said should be researched. It says:

"There are three areas where targeted innovation funding could deliver effective results:

  • The further development, assessment and tailoring of protective apparel (e.g. wetsuits) that is optimised for use by Queensland water users;
  • The development of area-based deterrents or detection systems that are specifically tailored and independently tested in relevant Queensland environments; and
  • Assessing the efficiency and effectiveness of drones including enhanced detection and recognition technologies for spotting sharks under Queensland conditions. (Page xii)”

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  1. Avatar Andrew Nieuwenhof says:

    I agree with everything you say in this report, except...... Why do you call great white, bull and tiger sharks dangerous. This is the same term used by minister Furner. I have dived with bull and tiger sharks numerous times. It is clear when you are among them that they are not dangerous. We are not their prey. When bites by any shark occurs it’s because the situation created by humans is dangerous, as in this two British snorkellers wrestling in the water with each other and thrashing about. Of course all that movement is going to attract sharks. Most of the 80 to 100 bites a year globally are exploratory bites and as you know only 6 to 8 result in death. Please don’t describe this wonderful creatures as dangerous. Minister Furner and his shark-hating cronies are the dangerous ones.