Whitsunday shark attacks response

In late 2018, there was an unprecedented cluster of shark bite incidents in Cid Harbour in the Whitsunday area.

Cid Harbour is primarily a site for boat mooring and sharks are active in this area. No one should swim in Cid Harbour under any circumstances.

Signs advising people not to swim are in place around Cid Harbour and nearby marinas.

Five-point plan

After meeting with shark experts, tourism groups and other stakeholders in Airlie Beach on 9 November 2018, the government outlined a five-point plan to improve safety:

  • provide $250,000 towards scientific research into shark prevalence and behaviour in Cid Harbour
  • maintain Cid Harbour as a no-swim zone until that assessment is complete
  • develop a high-profile education campaign to immediately educate locals and visitors about shark safety
  • develop a broader SharkSMART education campaign, similar to the successful CrocWISE campaign running in North Queensland
  • continue to meet with industry stakeholders and experts to develop and progress responses.

Research

Biopixel Oceans Foundation was awarded $281,985 to deliver research into the prevalence and behaviour of sharks in Cid Harbour. Biopixel Oceans Foundation is partnering with James Cook University to deliver this research.

The research team completed their first research field trip in December 2018, using a range of capture, tagging, tracking and visual survey techniques to assess the shark species present in Cid Harbour.

Interim report – January 2019

In January 2019, Biopixel Oceans Foundation and James Cook University delivered an interim report, presenting the results from the first field trip to Cid Harbour conducted between 13 and 19 December 2018.

In June 2019 the Commonwealth Government committed an additional $250,000 allowing the Cid Harbour research program to be expanded.

Progress report – October 2019

Biopixel Oceans Foundation and James Cook University prepared a progress report providing an update on their research.

The progress report shows that a range of different shark species are present in and around Cid Harbour, including tiger sharks, bull sharks, black tip sharks, hammerhead sharks, spot tail sharks and tawny nurse sharks.

A total of 57 sharks have been caught over the three field trips, with the most prevalent being spot-tail sharks and tiger sharks. The largest shark caught was a 3.86m tiger shark.

The report also includes high level results of an online survey on the recreational use of the Whitsundays and the public’s awareness, perception and attitudes toward sharks and SharkSmart behaviours. The results of this survey will help inform further development of the SharkSmart communication and education campaign.

The final project report is due to be delivered by June 2020.