Shark control and protecting non-target marine life

The methods developed by the Shark Control Program (SCP) provide a level of human protection, but small numbers of other non-target marine animals, also known as ‘bycatch’ can be accidentally caught in SCP equipment. Fisheries Queensland is committed to investigating all avenues to minimise impacts on non-target species.

The Marine Animal Release Team (MART) is the first line of defence to help release entangled marine life from SCP nets.  Other strategies used by the SCP to minimise bycatch include:

  • using drumlines instead of nets when possible
  • releasing non-dangerous sharks
  • escorting whales past the nets by positioning vessels between the whales and the equipment during the humpback whale migration season (May -November)
  • fitting all nets with electronic warning devices (pingers) to warn whales and dolphins of the presence of the nets
  • using alternative baits which reduce dolphin and turtle captures.

Number of sharks caught by the SCP

Marine Animal Release Teams

As part of the Shark Control Program (SCP), nets are necessary to reduce the risk of attacks on humans, but these can accidentally entangle other marine animals. Fisheries Queensland is committed to minimising impacts on non-target species and has established Marine Animal Release Teams (MARTs) in The Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Mackay.

MART teams consist of volunteers from the Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol. MART team members are well trained, and their equipment is specifically designed for releasing marine animals from nets. Team members respond and release marine animals (mainly humpback whales) during the whale migration season from May to November . Entanglements  may occur later in the season between  August and November when young inexperienced whales are on their way back from northern breeding waters.

Volunteer whale observers

To support the MART teams, Fisheries Queensland enlists 'volunteer whale observers  who reside in high-rise buildings along Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast beaches who are trained to identify and confirm entanglements. The use of these volunteers has resulted in a  large reduction in false reports. Early notification remains the key to successfully freeing an entangled animal. Following a confirmed notification, MART can effectively deploy their resources to give an entangled animal the best chance of survival.

MART support

The Gold Coast City Council lifeguard service, Surf Life Saving Queensland, the Australian Whale Conservation Society and local tourism bodies are currently supporting the MART.

Seaworld also provides support to the departments MART  on the Gold Coast.

Reporting marine life caught in equipment

If you see an animal caught in SCP equipment or notice equipment has broken free, contact the SCP hotline on 1800 806 891 (free call within Queensland).