EXPLAINED: Nets don’t work as well as drumlines

ONLY a tiny fraction of potentially dangerous sharks killed in Queensland's long running shark control program are caught in the shark nets which NSW Premier Mike Baird hopes to roll out on the North Coast.

Statistics from Queensland Fisheries from 2015 reveal nets were responsible for catching just 5% of all white sharks, tiger sharks, and bull sharks killed in the program - those most likely to cause a fatal attack on a human.

The other 95% were caught with drumlines - baited hooks suspended from buoys stationed offshore from beaches popular with swimmers and surfers.

These are not the so-called "smart" drumlines rolled out in NSW, which are generally used for tagging purposes, rather than to kill potentially dangerous sharks.

The Queensland shark control program includes a network of 35 drumlines and 11 nets off the Gold Coast.

Just north of the border, a prime 2km stretch of beach of the far southern Gold Coast (Kirra to Rainbow Bay) has 10 drumlines and two nets.

The nets used are 186m long and have a depth of 6m.

"Nets do not prevent sharks from entering a particular area," Fisheries Queensland says on its website.

"They are, however, intended to catch 'resident sharks' and sharks that move through an area while feeding on bait fish."

In total, the program caught 695 sharks in 2015 across Queensland.

The vast majority were Tiger sharks, with 287 caught.

There were 113 bull sharks caught, and 11 great whites. Six of those great whites were caught off the Gold Coast - mostly off the southern end.

The program was established in 1962 following a number of fatal shark attacks and since then there has been only one fatal attack of a protected beach, in Amity on North Stradbroke Island in 2006.

Fisheries Queensland says its "mixed strategy of gear types" is far more effective than the exclusive use of either nets or drum lines.

The department notes that in South Africa, between 1990 and 1998 there was only one seven attacks (one fatal) in Kwa Zulu Natal where meshing occurs, and 46 attacks (five fatalies) in South Africa's Eastern and Western Cape provinces "where no protective measures are in place".

In contrast with the failed shark enclosures on the North Coast, drumlines and meshing operate "in all but the roughest beach conditions and provides high levels of bather protection over entire beaches".

A Fisheries Queensland spokesperson said the combination of nets and drumlines were used because "different species of sharks are more likely to be caught using different apparatus".

"For example, nets are set in areas adjacent to rivers and canals because bull sharks are more likely to be captured in a net, whereas Tiger sharks are more likely to be caught on drumlines."

"Shark nets can affect other marine life, but it's about getting the balance right - which is why we use other measures to reduce entanglements of non-target species."

Fisheries Queensland declined to offer contact details of contractors working to "reset" drumlines and nets (remove dead wildlife) because they had received "threats" in the past.



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