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Communique 16 December 2021

The Shark Control Program Scientific Working Group (the Group) met on 16 December 2021.

The Group noted a general update about the Shark Control Program including the current status of key trials. Members were advised that the Queensland Shark Management Plan 2021-25 was approved and is now publicly available on the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries website which has been refreshed. Planning for the North Queensland barrier trial is well advanced with a project officer appointed to manage the project. The Group will be consulted in early 2022 about barrier trial site selection. The catch alert drumline trial on the Capricorn Coast commenced in September 2021. The group will be consulted on preliminary data analysis at the next meeting.

Animal Science Queensland presented the results of the 2020-21 SharkSmart drone trial (the trial). The first phase of the trial began in South East Queensland in September 2020 and expanded to North Queensland in June 2021. The first phase of the trial is now complete and under evaluation.

During the trial period, across seven beaches, 3,669 flights covering 1,468 km were completed and analysed. A total of 174 sharks were sighted including 48 large sharks estimated to be greater than 2 metres in length. Beaches were temporarily evacuated on 4 occasions where a shark sighted was deemed to pose a risk to water users. The group noted that no sharks were sighted in north Queensland during the trial with water clarity the main limiting factor. Environmental and operational factors influencing shark sightings were modelled. The likelihood of sighting a shark was higher during the first two flights of the day, during Summer and Autumn or when other fauna was present. The Group noted the comparison between drone sightings and shark catch in adjacent nets and drumlines and discussed challenges associated with comparing the two different approaches to reducing shark bite risk.

Members were invited to provide further feedback on the draft Queensland SharkSmart Drone Trial Final Report which will be finalised in early 2022.

Fisheries Queensland advised that additional funding had been committed to the SharkSmart drone trial allowing the trial to be expanded to additional beaches. Fisheries Queensland presented a draft matrix capturing key criteria to assist with site selection. Members were invited to provide feedback on the criteria and will be further consulted on site selection in early 2022.

The Group noted that SharkSmart drones are flying at six beaches over the school holiday and Australia Day period while the evaluation is underway.

The Group was advised that opportunities to incorporate the use of artificial intelligence and to trial advanced camera technologies in the future were being explored.

The next meeting is planned for March/April 2022.

Last updated: Unpublished