Shark Control Program (SCP) equipment is necessary to reduce the risk of shark attacks on humans, however it can also inadvertently impact on other marine animals.
Fisheries Queensland is committed to investigating all avenues to minimise impacts on non-target species. It has established Marine Animal Release Teams (MART) on the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and in Mackay.
The MARTs consist of volunteers from the Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol who undertake the release of marine animals, mainly humpback whales, during the whale migration season (May-October). Entanglements generally occur later in the migration season around August and September when young inexperienced whales are on their way back from the northern breeding waters. MART members are well-trained and equipped. The teams have access to equipment that has been designed specifically for releasing marine animals.
To support the MART teams, Fisheries Queensland has also enlisted 'volunteer whale spotters' who reside in high-rise buildings along Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast beaches. The volunteers are equipped and trained to identify and confirm entanglements. MART members can now effectively deploy resources to give the entangled animal the best chance of survival. The volunteer whale spotter program has resulted in a 90% reduction in false reports. Early notification remains the key to successfully freeing an entangled animal.
Support for the MART program is growing, with groups such as the Gold Coast City Council lifeguard service, Surf Life Saving Queensland, the Australian Whale Conservation Society and local tourism bodies supporting the initiative. Seaworld plays a significant role in the program supporting the MARTs on the Gold Coast with teams of their own highly trained staff who also respond to entanglements.
If you notice that an animal has been entangled in shark control equipment, contact the 24-hour Shark Hotline on 1800 806 891 (free call within Queensland).