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Catch alert drumline trial

The Queensland Government is trialling catch alert drumlines in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Catch alert drumlines use satellite technology to notify contractors when an animal is caught.

The trial is delivered by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and funded by the Australian Government Reef Trust. It is being conducted in accordance with the permit issued by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

The New South Wales Department of Primary Industries Shark Program team has shared details of their SMART drumline trial (a type of catch alert drumline) to assist with the Queensland catch alert drumline trial.

This trial is part of the Queensland Government’s investment in trials of alternative shark mitigation technology, to determine what may be suitable for Queensland coastal conditions.

Locations

Catch alert drumlines will be trialled at four beaches in the Capricorn Coast (Yeppoon) region:

  • Mulambin Beach
  • Tanby Point
  • Fisherman Beach
  • Emu Park Beach

Timing

From September 2021 to June 2022.

About catch alert drumlines and traditional drumlines

Both traditional and catch alert drumlines use baited hooks to target and catch potentially dangerous sharks, aiming to reduce the risk to people in the water at popular beaches. There are differences in the way the equipment operates.

Traditional drumlines

Traditional drumline © Queensland Government
Shark control program drumline. The image shows drumline components of floats, anchor and hook.
  • Used at Queensland beaches since 1962.
  • A baited shark fishing hook is suspended from a large plastic float anchored to the sea bed.
  • Drumlines in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park are checked daily by contractors on servicing days. The hooks are temporarily de-baited and rendered ineffective on non-servicing days.

Catch alert drumlines

Catch alert drumline © Queensland Government
Shark control program catch alert drumline. The image shows catch alert drumline components of floats, anchor, catch alert unit, triggering magnet and hook.
  • Catch alert drumlines use satellite technology to rapidly notify contractors when an animal is caught.
  • SMART drumlines (developed at Reunion Island and trialled in New South Wales and Western Australia) are a type of catch alert drumline.
  • Trial underway at Capricorn Coast from September 2021 to June 2022.
  • Same hook, bait and float as a traditional drumline.

Trial aims

  • Compare catches of potentially dangerous sharks and other marine animals on traditional and catch alert drumlines.
  • Compare the rates of survival, at point of release, of marine animals captured on traditional and catch alert drumlines.
  • Consider trial results to determine whether catch alert drumlines are suitable for long term use in Queensland coastal conditions.

Trial methodology

Catch alert drumlines are being trialled at four beaches in the Capricorn Coast region where traditional drumlines have been in place. Traditional and catch alert drumlines will be used alternatively in sequence, with the order reversed periodically. Overall the same number of drumlines will remain in place at each beach, twenty-two (22) in total across the four trial beaches.

At the completion of the trial, a report on the trial outcomes will be prepared to inform government decisions on whether catch alert drumlines are suitable for long-term use in Queensland coastal conditions.

Trial operations

For catch alert drumlines:

  • The contractor will deploy and bait the catch alert drumlines early in the morning and monitor for alerts from the GPS communication units throughout the day.
  • If an alert is received, the contractor will attend to the captured animal as soon as possible, preferably within one hour.
  • Bull, tiger and white sharks captured on catch alert drumlines will be tagged and released away from the site of capture, where possible and safe to do so.
  • All other animals captured on catch alert drumlines will be released as quickly as possible at the site of capture.
  • At the end of the day the contractor will remove the catch alert drumline unit and hook for the evening. The anchor and float will remain in place. Equipment may be removed earlier in the day if sea conditions are forecast to become unsafe.

For traditional drumlines:

  • The drumlines will be baited and deployed 24 hours a day and checked daily up to 260 days a year (weather dependent). Hooks are de-baited and rendered ineffective on days they are not in service.
  • Bull, tiger and white sharks captured on traditional drumlines will be tagged and released away from the site of capture, where possible and safe to do so.
  • All other animals captured on traditional drumlines will be released alive at the site of capture.

Monitoring and evaluation

Catch alert drumline catch – 9 to 30 September 2021

Species Number caught (released alive)
Tiger sharks 0 (0)
Bull sharks 1 (1)
Other sharks 1 (0)

Traditional drumline catch – 9 to 30 September 2021

Species Number caught (released alive)
Tiger sharks 0 (0)
Bull sharks 0 (0)
Other sharks 1 (0)

For more information

Email scp@daf.qld.gov.au or call 13 25 23.

Frequently asked questions

  • SMART drumlines, which were first developed at Reunion Island and trialled in New South Wales and Western Australia, are a type of catch alert drumline.

  • When an animal is captured, the catch alert drumline sends an alert to staff and contractors in near-real time. A response team sent to the catch alert drumline as quickly as possible to release the captured animal. This quick response enhances the chance of survival for captured animals.

  • The Queensland catch alert drumline trial is part of the Queensland Government’s investment in trials of shark mitigation technology, to determine what may be suitable for Queensland conditions.

    The Queensland Government has committed to a trial of catch alert drumlines in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

  • The trial is being conducted in accordance with the permit issued by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, which sets conditions for how the Queensland shark control program operates within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

  • One of the aims of the trial is to compare catch rates of potentially dangerous sharks and other marine animals on catch alert drumlines and traditional drumlines. The scientific methodology for the trial is to use catch alert drumlines and traditional drumlines alternatively in sequence, with the order reversed periodically. This approach enables the project team to compare and report on catch rates of catch alert drumlines and traditional drumlines.

  • A contractor is responsible for deploying and retrieving the catch alert drumlines and responding to alerts to release captured animals.

  • If a bull, tiger or white shark is caught on a catch alert drumline it is tagged, relocated and released offshore wherever possible and safe to do so. All other sharks and marine animals are released alive as quickly as possible at the site of capture.

    If an animal captured on a catch alert drumline is dead when a contractor arrives, the contractor will dispose of it offshore. This is in accordance with existing shark control program procedures.

  • Bull, tiger and white sharks captured on catch alert drumlines will be fitted with tags that provide data on their movements. As tagged sharks travel along the Queensland coastline, the tag ‘pings’ on an array of underwater receivers. This helps scientists map where and when sharks travel.

  • Neither traditional or catch alert drumlines provide an impenetrable barrier between sharks and humans. Drumlines are designed to catch actively feeding sharks that may pose a risk to people at beaches.

  • Catch alert drumlines are deployed beyond the surf zone, well away from beach users. They are set to intercept sharks travelling the coast and the minimal bait used is insufficient to attract sharks to the area.

  • SMART drumlines (which are a type of catch alert drumline) have been trialled in New South Wales and Western Australia.

    In New South Wales, white, tiger and bull sharks were successfully captured, tagged and released. The New South Wales trial found that sharks captured, tagged and released from their SMART drumlines tended to remain offshore for a period of time.

    Western Australia’s SMART drumline trial ended in May 2021. The Western Australian Government reported their trial did not demonstrate value in reducing the potential risk posted by white sharks in South West Western Australia.

  • Collection of data over a long period of time is required to enable robust statistical analysis of the trial. Catch rates of sharks and other animals between the two types of drumlines will be compared to measure effectiveness and inform future decisions on equipment used in Queensland.

    The trial results will be reviewed by the Queensland Shark Control Program Scientific Working Group.

  • Subject to initial results and review of the trial by the Shark Control Program Scientific Working Group, the timing of the catch alert drumline trial in the Capricorn Coast may be extended beyond June 2022.

  • Catch alert drumlines may also be trialled in other locations of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, including Cairns, Townsville and Mackay pending the outcomes of the initial trial on the Capricorn Coast.

  • Other than at the catch alert drumline trial locations, traditional drumlines will remain in place at Queensland beaches. A report on the catch alert drumline trial outcomes will inform future government decisions on whether catch alert drumlines are suitable for long term use in Queensland conditions.

More information

Contact the Shark Control Program team at scp@daf.qld.gov.au or call us on 13 25 23.

Last updated: 07 Oct 2021