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December 9, 2021

EDO and HSI legal case challenges drum lines in marine park

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A court challenge to a permit for lethal shark drum lines within the Great Barrier Reef will begin next week in Brisbane, as dozens of animals including non-targeted and threatened species, fall victim to a shark cull.

The Environmental Defenders Office NSW (EDO NSW) is representing Humane Society International (HSI) in challenging a permit granted by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to install 173 lethal drum lines throughout the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

‘A Case For Sharks’ is a short film highlighting the issue.

Proceedings will being in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal on Wednesday January 30.

HSI will argue that the grant of the permit is inconsistent with the Authority’s legal responsibilities to protect the World Heritage Site, as the use of lethal drum lines imperils the Reef and its marine life (including dolphins, turtles, rays and many species of shark). HSI will also argue that modern technology is available that would manage human-shark interactions effectively without putting the Reef’s ecosystem at risk.

‘We’re proud to represent our client HSI in this important case,’ said David Morris, CEO of Environmental Defenders Office NSW. ‘As a World Heritage listed site, Australia has a legal responsibility to ensure the Reef’s protection.’

Drum lines introduced in the 1960s

Humane Society International’s Head of Campaigns Australia Nicola Beynon says that drum lines were first introduced in the 1960s and since then there have been nearly 60 years of progress in technology and the understanding of shark behaviour.

‘There is ever increasing public support for proper protection for our marine wildlife and we know that there are better ways to protect ocean users that don’t kill wildlife,’ says Ms Beynon. ‘These include aerial patrols, drones, eco-barriers, personal deterrent devices and public education.’

Expert evidence to be presented to the Tribunal will show that non-lethal shark control programs are now considered best practice. These non-lethal programs are as effective from a human safety perspective as lethal programs without the obvious downside impacts on the environment.

NASA satellite image of the Great Barrier Reef.

Community support for saving sharks

The evidence shows there is strong community support for ending lethal programs.

According to the Queensland Department of Fisheries, at least 578 marine animals have been caught on drum lines within the Great Barrier Reef since July 2016. Many of those were species that are vital to the health of the Reef’s environment. Of the animals caught on the drum lines, at least 432 drowned, whilst at least another 91 sharks were shot dead by Government contractors after being found alive.

Local filmmakers Cloudcatcher Media have assisted in highlighting the issue by editing EDO and HSI footage to make a short clip in support of the cause.

A ten year program

The 10-year, lethal control program, targets 19 shark species, including threatened and protected species that call the Great Barrier Reef home.

Last year, the Queensland Government removed seven species from its shark control program target list following the initiation of legal action by Humane Society International.

The drum lines are set with baited hooks to catch sharks. Those sharks that don’t die on the hook, and are on the target list, are shot by a contractor employed to check the drum lines by the Queensland Department of Primary Industries.

Sharks that continue to be shot dead if found alive on a drum line in the Great Barrier Reef:

  1. Australian Blacktip
  2. Big Nose Whaler
  3. Blue Shark
  4. Bull Whaler
  5. Common Blacktip Whaler
  6. Dusky Whaler
  7. Great Hammerhead
  8. Grey Reef Whaler
  9. Long Nose Whaler (Spinner Shark)
  10. Longfin Mako
  11. Shortfin Mako
  12. Oceanic Whitetip Whaler
  13. Pigeye Whaler
  14. Sandbar Whaler
  15. Sharptooth Shark/ Lemon shark
  16. Silky Whaler
  17. Silvertip Whaler
  18. Tiger Shark
  19. White Shark

Most of these species are not known for unprovoked bites to humans.

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the most complex natural ecosystems on earth, and one of the most significant for biodiversity conservation. As a World Heritage listed site, Australia has a legal responsibility to ensure its protection.

Further information can be found at the Human Society International website.


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  1. These are great statistics. It is great that there is a challenge to drum lines in a Marine Park- why call it that if the animals aren’t protected within this area.?

    • It is the sharks and all other marine life that need protecting from humans. Get the drumlines in place to hook humans NOT sharks.

  2. You left a word out, the word “moral”
    To have a permit is morally wrong and therefore to fight this in the courts only on legal grounds could mean to lose the case.
    The sentence should be:
    “HSI will argue that the grant of the permit is inconsistent with the Authority’s legal and moral responsibilities to protect the World Heritage Site, …”
    The Great Barrier Reef contains millions of marine animals in balance over thousands of years. Through Mankind’s interference we have had the Crown Of Thorns Starfish asserting its dominance on the Reef. The shark is a predator of Mankind, but it is not a predator in the ocean to other species, it is the scavenger of the ocean and cleans up the ocean of sick and dead animals. It can detect a struggling fish or animal over many miles and detect blood in the water through smell also from many miles away.
    Instead of attacking the shark and destroying the shark we need to have empathy for the shark in that it is a major part of the balance in animal life in the ocean.

  3. It’s funny how they all want a marine park while it suits them to make millions of tourists but not if the marine animals start affecting the bottom line it’s so predictable and I cannot believe they can get away with this sharks are part of the marine park leave them alone.


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