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Communique 6 May 2022

The Shark Control Program Scientific Working Group (the Group) met on 6 May 2022.

The Group noted general updates from Queensland and New South Wales on their respective programs. Fisheries Queensland advised that the target species review is continuing with further consultation with the Group expected to occur out of session and prior to the next meeting.

The Group noted and discussed the circumstances of serious shark bite incidents that occurred in Queensland and New South Wales (NSW) since August 2021, including two fatal incidents in NSW.

Agri-Science Queensland provided a presentation on the preliminary results of the catch alert drumline trial. The trial commenced in September 2021 at four beaches on the Capricorn Coast, within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP). The aim of the trial is to compare catches and survival (at point of release) of marine animals caught on catch alert drumlines (CADs) and modified traditional drumlines (TDs). A total of 171 animals were caught between 9 September 2021 and 30 April 2022, including 53 bull sharks (23 on CADs; and 30 on TDs); and 19 tiger sharks (5 on CADs; and 14 on TDs). Survival of bull sharks and tiger sharks was higher on CADs than TDs, however more data is required to determine whether the difference is statistically significant for tiger sharks. The Group noted the preliminary results and endorsed an extension of the trial to 30 January 2023.

Fisheries Queensland provided an update on the planning and engagement that has been undertaken for the shark barrier trial. The Group noted progress on developing the trial and endorsed the criteria proposed for the trial, noting that the beach selection criteria may be applied differently in the longer term. Fisheries Queensland advised that engagement with local government is continuing to progress preferred trial locations in North Queensland and within the GBRMP. The Group was keen to support Fisheries Queensland with engagement with relevant local councils to ensure preferred trial locations could be accessed.

Fisheries Queensland provided a presentation on the SharkSmart education program including core campaign and targeted messaging delivered over the summer period. The Group noted that two new SharkSmart videos are currently in production aimed at campers to offshore islands and bareboat renters in the Whitsundays.  The Group also noted an overview of two new education initiatives in development in partnership with Surf Life Saving Queensland and the Noosa Biosphere Reserve Foundation. The Group supported proposals for high risk water users e.g. surfers and identified spearfishers and fishers as important audiences for future targeted education initiatives. The Group also recommended delivering factual information about sharks (e.g. shark fact messaging) as part of the ongoing SharkSmart campaign.

The Group discussed opportunities to engage Aboriginal Peoples and Torres Strait Islanders in being SharkSmart and recommended that an additional member be appointed to provide advice on how to better engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities about shark bite mitigation in Queensland.

The Group received an update on research and trials delivered, funded or supported by the Program. The Group noted that the next phase of the SharkSmart drone trial, in partnership with Surf Life Saving Queensland, is in development, and will continue through to 2024-25. Fisheries Queensland advised that 10 beaches would be included in the next phase of the trial with new sites to be progressively rolled out before the summer school holidays. The Group supported the criteria used to identify continuing and new sites, noting that these are subject to local council and other approvals. The Group also discussed the aims and experimental design for a circle hook and a bull shark drumline trial. The aim of the circle hook trial is to compare catches of target and non-target species on circle hooks compared to “J” type hooks (current standard hook type) with the aim of reducing the impact of the Program on animals caught in the GBRMP and on non-target species caught outside the GBRMP. The objective of the bull shark drumline trial is to test alternative drumline configurations with the aim of improving the effectiveness of drumlines for catching bull sharks to the extent that they are equally as effective as nets. The experimental design will be developed further by Fisheries Queensland and presented to the Group for feedback and/or endorsement at the next meeting. The Group noted that as some new focus areas for research have emerged the existing research priorities outlined in the Shark Control Program Research Strategy should be reviewed and noted that Fisheries Queensland would raise this for discussion at the next meeting.

Fisheries Queensland summarised operations, research and trials within the GBRMP and the Group noted the recent catch data for the GBRMP.

Last updated: Unpublished