Minutes 14 June 2019

Queensland Shark Control Program Scientific Working Group Minutes

14 June 2019
Department of Agriculture and Fisheries
63 George Street, Brisbane Q 4000

Attendees - Members

Name Position/ Organisation
Mark Doohan Chair / Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF)
Jeffrey Krause Department of Agriculture and Fisheries
Matthew Campbell Department of Agriculture and Fisheries
Mandy Elliot Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA)
Colin Simpfendorfer James Cook University
Russell Blanchard Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ)
Angela Freeman Tourism Representative

Attendees - Observers and Guests

Name Position/ Organisation
Graeme Bolton Department of Agriculture and Fisheries
Claire Andersen Department of Agriculture and Fisheries
Donna Walsh Department of Agriculture and Fisheries
Eddie Jebreen Department of Agriculture and Fisheries
Jason Argent Surf Life Saving Queensland
Andrew Chin James Cook University
Kirstin Dobbs Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
Charlie Huveneers Flinders University
Peta Lawlor Surf Life Saving Queensland
Marcel Green NSW Fisheries

Apologies

Name Position / Organisation
Richard Fitzpatrick Biopixel TV; James Cook University
Wayne Sumpton Department of Agriculture and Fisheries
Adam Smith Reef Ecologic, Townsville Local Marine Advisory Committee (LMAC) Secretary

Secretariat

Name Position / Organisation
Tracey Scott-Holland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

1. Introduction

The Chair thanked members for attending and welcomed guests. The status of action items from the previous meeting was discussed and is provided in Table 1.

2. Shark Control Program Update

Claire Andersen (Executive Director, Fisheries Queensland) provided an update on the Shark Control Program’s (SCP) funding. Ms Andersen advised that as part of this year’s Budget, Government is providing an additional $17.1 million over four years towards swimmer safety.  The funding will continue the operation and maintenance of the SCP while investing $1 million a year into research on new technologies and $600,000 per year to continue to develop swimmer education programs along with partner agencies.

It was noted that Cardno has been engaged to deliver a report on the current status of alternatives that may be suitable for trial in Queensland.

Ms Andersen advised that the Queensland Government is appealing the decision of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) to vary the permit for the SCP to operate in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. It was noted that the appeal has been set down for 15 and 16 August, 2019 and will be heard by the full Federal Court.

Graeme Bolton (Deputy Director-General, Fisheries and Forestry) took the opportunity to advise the Group of the value and importance that the Honourable Mark Furner, Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries, places on the advice provided by this Group. He also reminded members and advised guests that the Government’s position is that human safety comes first and that this must be considered in any recommendations made by the Group.

3. NSW Shark Management Update

Marcel Green (NSW Fisheries) provided an update on shark mitigation trials in NSW. The importance of ongoing collaboration between NSW and Queensland was acknowledged. New South Wales Fisheries has a standing invitation and have agreed to continue to attend and provide advice at Scientific Working Group meetings.

Trials of sonar technology, shark barriers, drones (in collaboration with surf lifesaving NSW), and SMART (Shark Management Alert in Real Time) drumlines along with tagging and 4VRG receivers were discussed. The NSW program of annual grants for shark mitigation related projects was also discussed.

A major learning from the NSW program has been the importance of community consultation and engagement prior to the commencement of trials. Social research through community sentiment surveys is a useful tool in tailoring shark mitigation measures at the local level.

4. Cid Harbour Research Update

Dr Andrew Chin (James Cook University) provided an update on the social science aspects of the Cid Harbour research. Almost 200 surveys have been returned, with interviews with key informants still to occur. Richard Fitzpatrick (Biopixel) is a member of the Group but was unable to attend the meeting due to being currently in Cid Harbour conducting field research into the prevalence and behaviour of sharks in Cid Harbour. Richard provided an update via email regarding on-the-ground research that was currently underway in Cid Harbour. To date on the June field trip 5 tiger sharks, 2 tawny nurse sharks, 2 bull sharks, 1 spot-tail whaler and 1 Australian blacktip shark have been caught and tagged. In addition, one tiger shark that was tagged during the December trip was recaptured twice in one day. Current tagged animals can be followed at: https://citizensgbr.org/explore/reef-tracks/

5. Shark Deterrent Technologies

Associate Professor Charlie Huveneers (Flinders University) gave a presentation to the Group about the full suite of deterrent products currently available and some that are in development. He provided an overview of his research in testing the efficacy of some products.

6. Alternative Shark Mitigation

The Group discussed the Queensland Government funding announcement of $1 million a year to trial alternatives that may be appropriate for Queensland.

It was noted that Cardno is preparing a review of alternative shark mitigation methods for the Department.  The Group discussed the development of criteria for ranking/comparing alternatives and were invited to provide any relevant input for Cardno to consider in the review. The Group will be invited to review the draft criteria out of session (Action Item 4.1).

The Group workshopped alternatives that may be suitable for trial in Queensland. The range of environmental conditions encountered in Queensland was discussed, noting that alternatives that may suitable for trial in North Queensland may not be suitable for the surf beaches in the Southern parts of the State. The users being protected were also discussed noting that swimmers and surfers were the primary focus of protections.

For the purposes of the exercise, the Group decided to broadly split the State into North and South with Northern regions characterised by low energy beaches with relatively poor visibility and Southern regions characterised by high energy beaches and relatively good visibility. Members and guests prioritised currently available alternatives with the following options considered by the Group to be the most suitable for trial in Queensland:

  1. Education (and behaviour change e.g. appropriate waste management for vessels) (North and South)
  2. Drones (North and South)
  3. Shark Barriers such as physical barriers (North Qld only) or deterrent barrier technologies (North and South)
  4. Deterrents (with a focus on personal and boat based electrical deterrents) (North and South).
  5. This information will be provided to Cardno for consideration in the review and the Group will be consulted further on the outcomes of the review (Action Item 4.2).

7. Reducing the Environmental Impact of the SCP

The Group discussed options for reducing the environmental impact of the SCP noting that this is identified as a high priority in the research strategy.

Analysis of historical catch data e.g. after rain events, would enable the Group to make recommendations in relation to use of nets in the SCP.

The difficulties of comparing the effectiveness of alternatives to the effectiveness of the current program of nets and drumlines were acknowledged.

8. Crocodile Drone Monitoring

Jason Argent (SLSQ) gave a presentation to the Group about how SLSQ is using drones to monitor crocodiles (and also sharks to some extent) in North Queensland for beach safety. Examples of crocodile footage were presented and some of the current challenges faced by the Program were discussed e.g. equipment, pilot training, legislation relating to use of drones e.g. CASA line of sight rules, rostering and balancing with other priorities for staff in the field and development of software to analyse footage using artificial intelligence. The use of drones by SLSQ for monitoring crocodiles is delivering positive safety benefits in North Queensland.

9. Shark Control Program Research Strategy

The ‘Shark Control Program Research Strategy’ was published on the Department’s website in May 2019. Members were thanked for their input into the development of the strategy. The Strategy outlines the research priorities for the SCP and promotes opportunities for researchers to engage in collaborative research with the SCP.

10. DAF Current Research Projects – update

Tracey Scott-Holland provided an update on current DAF research projects.

  1. Hook and Bait Experiments. Bait experiments have commenced at North Stradbroke Island and Capricorn Coast. Data has not been analysed.
  2. Genetic sampling – Genetic sampling procedures have been developed and sampling kits have been put together. Training to be delivered to contractors in collecting samples and kits to be distributed. The Group discussed the possibility of sharing of samples with external researchers through platforms such as https://otlet.io/
  3. Trials of Dolphin Dissuasive Devices were discussed. Data has not been analysed.
  4. Circle hook trials have not commenced due to the AAT decision impacting on operations in the Townsville region.

11. SharkSMART Education campaign

Tracey Scott-Holland provided an update on the roll-out of the SharkSMART education program. A website has been developed and social media static and video advertisements were rolled out. Static ads have reached over 1.6 million people and video ads have reached almost 500,000 people with over 900,000 through-plays.

Short radio ads were played through radio networks along the Queensland coastline from 6 April to 29 June 2019.

The SharkSMART brochure now includes a boat sticker and the brochures will be distributed with new boat registrations commencing soon.

The Group discussed options that could be investigated for expanding the reach of education messages such as:

  • Eastern cultures can be reached through social media channels such as WeChat;
  • Use of QR codes with translations;
  • Collaboration with Bush to Beach and Reef Guardian School Programs (GBRMPA);
  • Providing materials to tourism bodies;
  • Signage (appropriate policies would need to be developed);
  • Including information in hire boat induction videos;
  • Pop-up stands e.g. boating and fishing expos. NSW Fisheries use a blimp for these events;
  • Online ChatBOTs; and
  • Collateral that can be developed and distributed to encourage engagement and enhance the SharkSMART education program were also discussed e.g. temporary tattoos (NSW Fisheries); crocwise carpet that is rolled out with life-size crocodile image. Materials like this can increase engagement of children in particular.

12. Correspondence for Consideration

The SCP receives correspondence periodically that may be referred to the Group for consideration.

Correspondence was received from the manufacturer of a personal deterrent device. Information about personal deterrents will be included in the report to be prepared by Cardno. The Group will consider personal deterrents when the report is delivered.

Correspondence was received in relation to trialling a shark claw for restraining sharks to allow for tagging. The Group noted that the shark claw was developed by Richard Fitzpatrick (member) and its use has been discontinued. The correspondent also recommended that the Queensland Government consider a trial of shark dive tourism. The Group noted that many people enjoy diving with sharks and will travel to locations for this purpose. This activity would be associated with increased level of risk of shark bite.

13. General Discussion

The Chair suggested that the frequency of meetings be increased to three or four per year given the current focus on research and trials of alternatives.

The next meeting is planned for early September.

The Chair advised the Group that Jeff Krause (Manager, SCP) will be retiring in July. He thanked Jeff for his work in the SCP and with the Group. A selection process is underway to fill the position.

The Chair closed the meeting at approximately 2:30pm.

14. Abbreviations and Acronyms

AAT                              Administrative Appeals Tribunal

DAF                              Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

GBRMPA                      Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority

the Group                     Shark Control Program Scientific Working Group

NSW                             New South Wales

SCP                             Queensland Shark Control Program

SLSQ                           Surf Life Saving Queensland

Table 1: Status of action items from previous meeting.

Action NoActionPerson responsibleCompleted? Y/N
1.8 Prepare data analysis of shark catch during and outside of the stinger season. Jeff Krause
Wayne Sumpton
Matthew Campbell
In Progress
1.13 Review the non-dangerous shark species list – out of session and prior to the next meeting. Jeff Krause to facilitate in association with Rean Gilbert, Colin Simpfendorfer, Richard Fitzpatrick, Matthew Campbell and Wayne Sumpton.

Progress recommendation for removal of listed species from the target list. Develop a formal risk assessment process for assessing additional species.
Jeff Krause
Tracey Scott-Holland

In Progress

1.16

Analyse and document the history of hammerhead sharks taken in the SCP. Wayne Sumpton
Matthew Campbell
Tracey Scott-Holland
In Progress
2.2 Prepare analysis of when and where shark incidents occur. Jeff Krause In Progress
2.3 Analyse shark catch in relation to contract ‘lay’ periods (historical) Matthew Campbell In Progress
3.1 Cid Harbour Research Project – Project Proposal to be sent to members for endorsement Tracey Scott-Holland Y

Table 2: Ongoing and new action items.

Action No.ActionPerson responsibleCompleted? Y/N
1.8 Prepare data analysis of shark catch during and outside of the stinger season. Jeff Krause
Matthew Campbell
In Progress
1.13 Review the non-dangerous shark species list – out of session and prior to the next meeting. Jeff Krause to facilitate in association with Rean Gilbert, Colin Simpfendorfer, Richard Fitzpatrick, Matthew Campbell and Wayne Sumpton.

Progress recommendation for removal of listed species from the target list. Develop a formal risk assessment process for assessing additional species.
Jeff Krause
Tracey Scott-Holland
In Progress
1.16 Analyse and document the history of hammerhead sharks taken in the SCP. Matthew Campbell
Tracey Scott-Holland
In Progress
2.2 Prepare analysis of when and where shark incidents occur. Jeff Krause In Progress
2.3 Analyse shark catch in relation to contract ‘lay’ periods (historical) Matthew Campbell In Progress
4.1 SWG to provide comment on proposed criteria for assessing shark mitigation alternatives (out of session). Tracey Scott-Holland  
4.2 SWG comments on alternatives that may be suitable for trial to be provided to Cardno. Tracey Scott-Holland