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Shark research

We support and conduct research to:

  • inform shark control program operations
  • guide and evaluate our trials of alternative technology
  • inform our SharkSmart tips for water users.

Our research is guided by the shark control program research strategy. This outlines our research priorities and provides opportunities for external researchers to collaborate and contribute to answering key research questions.

The shark control program invites researchers to email scp@daf.qld.gov.au to discuss opportunities to get involved.

Research into shark species and behaviour

The following research projects focus on shark species and shark behaviour in coastal areas of Queensland.

  • This research is examining the effectiveness of commercially available, personal electric shark deterrents on tiger sharks. Previous testing has been focused on white sharks, bull sharks and blacktip reef sharks.

    As the sensory systems of sharks can vary between species, it’s important to evaluate the effectiveness of electric shark deterrents across the potentially dangerous species occurring in Queensland (white sharks, bull sharks and tiger sharks).

    The study will:

    • test 2 shark deterrent devices on tiger sharks, which have previously been tested on white sharks and bull sharks. More devices may be tested if time permits.
    • assist the government in forming a policy position on the use of personal shark deterrent devices in Queensland.
  • This research studied the prevalence and behaviour of sharks in Cid Harbour, Whitsundays using a range of catch, tracking and imaging methods.

    Between 2018 and 2020 researchers fished for sharks and tagged them with acoustic and satellite tags to track their movements. They also used baited remote underwater video cameras (BRUVs) to film sharks and potential prey in Cid Harbour. The research:

    • did not identify anything unusual about the number of sharks or their movements in Cid Harbour that may have contributed to the cluster of shark bites in 2018. (The research did not aim to identify the species responsible for the shark bite incidents in 2018.)
    • reported shark catches and sightings in Cid Harbour were not higher than expected, based on previous shark monitoring projects undertaken by the researchers and published literature about sharks.
    • reported bull and tiger shark presence and residency was low in Cid Harbour, suggesting these shark species are not a continual risk to humans. However, bull and tiger sharks move widely over the Whitsundays region and pass through areas that people use intensively for water-based recreation activities, including Cid Harbour.
    • found some sharks tagged in Cid Harbour travelled very long distances from the Whitsundays, including journeys to New South Wales, the Torres Strait and the Solomon Islands.

    Report:

    Barnett, A., Abrantes, K., Bradley, M., Fitzpatrick, R., Sheaves, M. and Bennett, M. (2021). Prevalence and behaviour of sharks in Cid Harbour. Biopixel Oceans Foundation, 80 pages.

  • Shark depredation occurs when a shark completely or partially consumes fish caught in fishing apparatus before it can be landed.

    The aims of this research are to:

    • determine the extent of shark depredation and shark species associated with depredation in the Whitsundays region
    • contribute to our understanding of the potential for sharks to be attracted to boats and fishing activities and how that may relate to shark bite risk.

    Researchers will be working with fishers using customised 360-degree camera technology and genetic sampling techniques, coupled with a custom-built app to collect data for the project.

  • This data review is informing research and trials of shark mitigation technology in Queensland.

    The review reported on 12 data types, including physical, biological, human usage and planning attributes for   86 beaches across 10 regions in Queensland, as well as the Whitsundays.

    Report:

    Cardno (NSW/ACT) Pty Ltd. (2020). Data Review for Queensland Shark Control Program Regions & The Whitsundays. Cardno (NSW/ACT) Pty Ltd, 215 pages.

  • This research analysed the catch in nets and drumlines at shark control program beaches in Queensland to determine patterns in selectivity of target and by-catch species. The report includes region-specific analyses.

    Report:

    Cardno (NSW/ACT) Pty Ltd. (2020). Selectivity of nets and drumlines used in the Queensland Shark Control Program. Cardno (NSW/ACT) Pty Ltd, 102 pages.

  • Shark control contractors are collecting genetic samples of sharks captured on drumlines and in nets to confirm species identification.

Research into human behaviour

The following research projects investigate human behaviour which may:

  • impact shark behaviour
  • increase or decrease the risk of human and shark interactions in coastal areas of Queensland.
  • This research explored the patterns of use, behaviour, perceptions, values and beliefs held by recreational users of the Whitsundays. The aim was to understand what factors people believed may have contributed to the 2018 shark bite incidents and to identify opportunities to promote SharkSmart behaviour.

    • Respondents to surveys (218 respondents) and interviews (7 respondents) generally believed that people’s ignorance was a key risk. Some said that sharks may be attracted to fishing and waste disposal from boats, and in some locations, sharks may have been fed either intentionally or unintentionally.
    • Researchers did note that Cid Harbour can be used by more than 100 boats per day. Some human behaviours, such as throwing food scraps overboard into the water, may attract sharks and increase the risk of shark bites. This is particularly risky if people are throwing scraps and waster overboard in areas where people also swim.
    • Respondents highlighted the importance of personal responsibility. While many felt well informed about SharkSmart behaviours, they felt further education and awareness-raising could help reduce risk.

    Report:

    Smith, B., Diedrich, A. and Chin, A. (2020). Usage patterns, behaviours, and knowledge of shark safety amongst marine recreational users in the Whitsundays. A report to the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, 100 pages.

  • This research delivered a behaviour change project to increase the knowledge and adoption of SharkSmart behaviours by bare boat renters (boats you can hire without a crew) in the Whitsundays during 2020.

    Researchers worked with 3 bare boat rental companies to trial behavioural interventions. Tactics included:

    • incorporating SharkSmart messages into pre-trip briefings with bare boat guests
    • providing waste management instructions
    • providing on board reminders.

    Results were measured through pre-trip and post-trip surveys of bare boat guests and measuring waste from boats.

    • Survey respondents said they had a very high knowledge (93–100%) of the 6 SharkSmart messages.
    • Tourist knowledge was not a strong predictor of behaviour. About 3 out of 10 people ignored one or more of the SharkSmart tips and participated in risky behaviours including swimming alone, swimming with bait fish, swimming in murky water, disregarding signage, and disposing of food or fish scraps in the water.

    Report:

    Smith, A., Molinaro, G., Songcuan A. and Frisch, K. (2021). Boosting shark safety of tourists in the Whitsundays region. Report to the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, 75 pages.

  • This project reviewed the scientific basis behind shark safety guidelines provided to the public by governments around Australia, South Africa and the United States.

    The results suggest developing:

    • more specific and locally relevant shark safety advice within different parts of Queensland
    • clearer explanations of the rationale behind shark safety advice to build community trust and encourage behaviour change.

    This may help individuals assess risk and modify their behaviours to be SharkSmart when undertaking water-based activities.

    The outcomes of this research inform the ongoing development of Queensland’s SharkSmart education program.

    Report:

    Hoel, K. and Chin, A. (2020), The scientific basis for global safety guidelines to reduce shark bite risks: a review of the latest science. Report to the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, 53 pages.

  • This research is currently in progress.

    It is a behaviour change project to encourage fishers to not throw fish scraps and food waste in waters where people swim.

    Further project information can be found here.

Last updated: Unpublished