Win in sharks case Great Barrier Reef EDO NSW

No more lethal shark control for Great Barrier Reef Marine Park

An important legal challenge run by EDO NSW, on behalf of the Humane Society International Australia (HSI), to the use of lethal shark drumlines within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park has been successful, with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal finding that the Shark Control Program within the Marine Park must avoid the lethal take of shark species.


A hammerhead shark on a lethal drumline. Photo courtesy HSI Australia.

2 April 2019

The Tribunal has varied the existing Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority permission for the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries' Shark Control Program, requiring it to:

  • avoid the lethal take of sharks and remove the list of target sharks from the permit;
  • ensure drum lines are attended to as quickly as possible when sharks are captured, and require that the euthanasia of sharks caught on drum lines is only undertaken on animal welfare grounds;
  • ensure all tiger, bull and white sharks caught on drum lines are tagged then released so that their movements can be monitored and researched;
  • ensure SMART (Shark Management Alert in Real Time) drum lines are trialled and implemented as soon as reasonably possible;
  • conduct research into alternative non-lethal shark control measures; and
  • require research to be conducted into the at-risk tiger shark population.

In its judgment, the Tribunal concluded that, “It is plain from the evidence that Queensland’s lethal shark control program is out of step with national and international developments”.

The Tribunal was satisfied that “from the scientific evidence… drum lines do not reduce the risk of shark attack on the individual” and that “the euthanasia of any species of sharks, significantly tiger sharks, that have been caught on drum lines should be a last resort and not occur as a matter of practice”. The Tribunal concluded that the tiger shark has undergone a significant reduction in its population in the Great Barrier Reef.

“We’re delighted to have won this important case for our client, HSI,” said Brendan Dobbie, Acting Principal Solicitor of Environmental Defenders Office NSW. “This is a great result for the Great Barrier Reef and its marine life, including dolphins, turtles and rays, as well as its many species of sharks. As a World Heritage listed site, Australia has a legal responsibility to ensure the Reef’s protection – instead, lethal drumlines imperilled the health of the Reef.”

Lawrence Chlebeck, Marine Campaigner at HSI, said,The judgment makes it crystal clear that non-lethal technology is the way forward for shark management in the Great Barrier Reef. This is very good news for the Reef and for sharks, most of them of no threat to humans and yet until now being killed in great numbers by this lethal program.”

Since July 2016, at least 432 animals drowned on lethal drumlines within the Great Barrier Reef and at least 91 sharks were found alive and then shot dead by a contractor employed by the Queensland Government.

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