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Net gain in marine life

Opinion

Net gain in marine life

Jane Stephens believes it’s time for Queensland to move on from outdated ways of controlling sharks that serve to ‘catch and kill’ other creatures.

Winter has just made its resplendent entrance and we have already had the first of what is likely to be many whales entangled in Sunshine Coast shark nets.

This time it was off Caloundra, but it is a (un)lucky dip for where the next trauma will occur, with 18 nets coast-wide ready to catch and kill. It is time once and for all to get rid of shark nets. They are barbaric, a blunt instrument and so old-fashioned they are no longer relevant.

The Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries says shark nets are not intended to be a barrier between swimmers and marine creatures. Its says nets do not prevent sharks entering an area but are merely meant to catch or interrupt them on their way through.

Beachgoers don’t know that. They think a net makes them safe. It doesn’t. And there is no evidence that swimmers are less safe in the water on beaches that do not have nets. Let’s lift them. Let’s move on and get real, given that shark nets catch too many other creatures on their way through as well – particularly the migrating gentle marine giants and, soon, their newborn calves.

A survey run by Independent Member Sandy Bolton in March found that three-quarters of Noosa respondents wanted the four additional shark nets there removed.

Here’s hoping Ms Bolton will use her voice in state parliament to get action and clear beaches Queensland-wide of these cruel and indiscriminate torture devices.

Queensland is the only state left in Australia which leaves shark nets in the migratory path of whales. It is one of the few places internationally that uses equipment that is indiscriminate and therefore also catches and kills protected and endangered marine species, and not too many sharks of a size deemed to be dangerous to humans.

There are 60 drumlines – baited hooks designed to catch and drown sharks. But they catch and drown any number of other species, too – from Noosa to Caloundra. We are some of the few jurisdictions who continue to use these as well.

But let’s start small and lift the nets – not just when the weather is foul and the government is fearful of damage to its equipment, but now that whales are on the move and fewer people are playing in the cooler water. It is right, humane and necessary.

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Jane Stephens is a USC journalism lecturer, media commentator and writer.

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