Since 1962 the region of Queensland, Australia has been using drumlines for its shark control program. Up until 2019 all sharks caught were culled— killing approximately 500 sharks a year.
From 2019 until now, 80% of sharks caught are found dead. The vast majority of the species of sharks caught have never attacked humans eg. wobegongs, blacktips, nurse sharks, hammerheads. The use of drumlines has been considered inhumane and ineffective—Is it mostly attracting sharks to the coasts?
In 2019 Humane Society International’s challenged Queensland’s Shark Control Program. The ruling by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal now required the control program to avoid “to the greatest extent possible, the lethal take of shark species”—ending the needless culling practice. The ruling also encouraged the trial of SMART drumlines instead. These would alert auhorities when a shark was caught for it to be tagged and then released further from the coast.
A recent analysis by HSI found that although its been two years since the ruling, mortality rates had dropped only by 20%—and most fatalities are of smaller species, meanwhile smart drumlines are yet to be seen.
“Of the 178 sharks caught in the marine park between February and December 2020, only 41 were released alive”—HSI
What are drumlines and how do they work?
Drumlines are underwater shark traps, where 500g of bait fish are placed on a hook to attract nearby sharks, then the shark is hooked until it’s either released or culled.
By winter of 2021 the government hopes to implement smart drumlines, that would use GPS transponders to alert fisheries when a shark has been caught, increasing the chances of a live release.
Why not ditch drumlines all together?
Humans kill 100 million sharks per year. Our apex predator is in danger of extinction. Tagging large sharks and having a live monitor on their whereabouts is a lot safer both for humans and sharks—also lest we forget that you have a higher chance of being killed by a cow or a coconut than by a shark attack. Without sharks marine ecosystems would collapse—making the planet a very unhealthy place to live on considering the ocean produces 1/3 of every breath we take.
Perhaps the government of Queensland should save its money and let sharks roam freely?
HSI supports the removal of nets and drumlines, replaced with non-lethal technology to avoid interactions with sharks. Aerial surveillance technologies like drones and shark spotters, personal shark deterrent devices, swimming or surfing at patrolled beaches and always avoiding swimming at dusk and dawn are some of the measures that should be promoted by State and Federal Governments.—Humane Society International