Two whales have been entangled in shark nets on Queensland’s coast today, one at Kirra Beach on the Gold Coast and the other at Marcoola Beach on the Sunshine Coast, Humane Society International says.
Every year at this time, humpback whales migrate from feeding grounds in the Southern Ocean to the warm waters of the Coral Sea to breed and give birth to their young, and every year a number of them become entangled in Queensland’s shark nets.
Queensland welcomes the humpbacks with 27 gillnets, set with the intention of reducing the risk of shark attacks.
More than 80 whales have been entangled in the shark nets since 2001.
Even when an entangled whale is able to be freed, there’s no guarantee they will survive the ordeal. Such an event is extremely traumatic for the already exhausted creatures.
A trial replacement of shark nets with alternatives in Queensland waters for the duration of the whale migration was recommended to the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, Mark Furner, by the Shark Control Program’s Scientific Working Group in September 2020.
The Working Group is a panel of shark experts tasked with guiding the program and providing advice to the Minister’s Office.
However in 2021, Minister Furner stated publicly that removing the shark nets for the whale migration was off the table despite the scientific advice from his own Working Group.
The Queensland Shark Management Plan released last December promises further trials of new, non-lethal technologies such as drone surveillance that hopefully provides a path to consigning the nets to history.
Lawrence Chlebeck, marine biologist for Humane Society International, said: ‘Today’s two entanglements bring this migration season’s count to four, all within the last month. Sadly, the public can only watch on in dismay.
‘The Minister’s own scientific experts advised him to trial a removal of the nets during the whale migration season. Each year that the advice is not acted on will only see more whales entangled.
‘It makes no sense because everyone knows the nets are outdated and not effective at reducing the risk of shark bite to humans. All they do is cause unnecessary injury and death to migrating whales and other precious wildlife.’