Advocating for the Sunshine Coast

Shark Nets

SCEC are advocating for the current Queensland shark control program to be replaced with modern non-lethal technology that ensures the protection of marine life and better safety for beach goers.  

The Queensland Shark Control Program (SCP) was introduced by the Queensland government in 1962 with the aim of reducing human/shark encounters at popular tourist beaches across the State. The SCP consists of two types of lethal equipment: baited drum lines (hooks) and nets. Shark nets stretch 124m - 186m long, and 6m deep and do little to stop a shark from entering a particular area. Sharks easily and frequently swim under and around nets. When a shark is caught in the net, they are more often than not found on the beach side of the net heading back out to the open ocean.

A 'Right to Information' request conducted in 2014 revealed an astounding 84,800 marine animals had been caught and killed in the QLD SCP. In recent years, this number has continued to skyrocket. SCEC decided to do our own research and collate by-catch data specific to the Sunshine Coast and Rainbow Beach areas, drawn from publicly available information on the Department of Fisheries website. Sadly, over 23 critically endangered Grey Nurse sharks have been caught and killed on the Sunshine Coast, an unacceptable number given their dwindling east coast population. You can take a look at the other startling data we found here. You can also view the location of the equipment here. 

Humpback Whale entanglements are also on the rise as the species population continues to grow. The NSW government remove their nets during the Humpback migration season, so why can't QLD?

Recent Update on Shark Control Program

The Queensland Government and Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ) partnered in 2020 to deliver the SharkSmart drone trial. In these trials, drones monitor beaches and detect sharks to gather data on their movements and behaviours. If a dangerous shark is spotted, lifeguards warn beach goers and temporarily close the beach if necessary. Drone trials at Coolum North and Alexandra Headland, as well as beaches on the Gold Coast and North Stradbroke Island, were initially set to run from September to November 2020, but have since been extended to October 2021. This year, the trial has also expanded to include two additional beaches in North Queensland, where trials will be running from June 2021 to November 2021. Based on initial results, the trial may be extended further to include additional beaches in North Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The drumlines and nets will remain in place throughout the trial. This is great news, and a step has been made in the right direction to non-lethal methods, however SCEC still strongly advocates for the nets and drumlines to be removed immediately, or at the very least during the whale migration season.

What are the solutions?

In the wake of rapid technological advancement, SCEC are seeking a commitment from the QLD government to remove lethal shark control and have the outdated equipment replaced with modern non-lethal technology, improved strategies, and a dedicated educational campaign.

What do we mean by non-lethal technology?

There are a number of technologies currently being trialed across the globe, with many returning very favourable results. SCEC are advocating for the immediate trial of sonar detection devices and aerial drone surveillance at popular Sunshine Coast beaches. Both of these approaches feed back to an alarm system, notifying lifeguards in the presence of a shark. Other devices and strategies have also proven effective at various locations across the world, including: the eco-shark barrier at low energy beaches; shark spotting programs in areas with elevated vantage points; and the widespread use of personal shark deterrents. 

Why are sharks important?

Sharks have lived in our oceans for over 400 million years, and there are currently over 500 species of sharks currently known. As an apex predator, sharks play a crucial role in maintaining ecological integrity in the marine environment. From the knowledge we currently have of global shark populations, it is predicted that numbers are dwindling as a result of over-exploitation from fishing and game hunting. Population studies have led to the protection of a number of shark species, including the often feared and minimally researched, White Shark.

An ocean without sharks would be devastating to our future, so it’s time to enhance shark research and adopt modern non-lethal technology as a priority that ensures the safety of both beach goers and marine life. Scroll down to find out how you can help.




How have SCEC been involved?

In 2016, SCECwith the help of volunteers, decided to take a look at the catch data available online through the Department of Fisheries.

SCEC's analysis was conducted for the ten year period spanning January 2007 to December 2020. During this time 894 non-shark species were captured on shark nets in areas spanning from Bribie Island to Rainbow Beach. Of these, 62% were found deceased, with post release mortality of the other 38% unknown. Of this statistic, the following bycatch were recorded:

  • 91 dolphins
  • 12 whales
  • 8 dugongs
  • 195 turtles
  • 264 rays
  • 107 tuna
  • 25 grey nurse sharks

Worth noting is that almost all reported Federally protected and critically endangered Grey Nurse Shark captures in QLD occurring within this period took place in Sunshine Coast waters.

SCEC has been working with other environmental not-for-profit organisations like the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) and Sea Shepherd to bring about a positive change for marine life in Queensland. SCEC thank Sea Shepherd for capturing the below images in Queensland waters.

Astounded by the amount of by-catch on the Sunshine Coast alone, SCEC decided to take up the matter as a campaign. Since then, SCEC has:

  • Analysed publicly available information and extracted data specific to the Sunshine Coast to determine local catch statistics.
  • Made a submission to the Senate Inquiry into Shark Mitigation and Deterrent Measures. This is a great document to read for anyone new to the subject!
  • Provided evidence at the Senate Inquiry public hearing in Byron Bay on May 2nd, 2017 (pictured). 
  • Supported Coolum & North Shore Coast Care at the Senate Inquiry public hearing in Brisbane on July 31st, 2017.
  • Invited key decision makers within Noosa Council and Sunshine Coast Council to meet and support the removal of shark nets on the Sunshine Coast during Humpback Whale Migration Season. Support has also been sought for the trial of specific modern technology in canals.