Court ruling prevents the catch and kill of sharks on the Great Barrier Reef

·Environment Editor

Marine campaigners are celebrating after the Queensland government lost its fight for the right to catch and kill sharks on the Great Barrier Reef.

The state government’s appeal to maintain its controversial management program was dismissed on Wednesday in the Federal Court in Sydney.

The appeal follows an Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) decision in early April, which upheld a challenge to the program in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park by the Humane Society.

In its decision, the tribunal said the scientific evidence about "the lethal component" of the shark control program "overwhelming" showed it does not reduce the risk of an unprovoked shark attack.

It means the authority will now be required to carry out the program in a way that avoids killing sharks to the "greatest extent possible".

The park will only be permitted to authorise the euthanasia of sharks caught on drum lines on animal welfare grounds.

Close up of a hammerhead shark caught on a drum line.
A hammerhead shark caught on a drum line in the Great Barrier Reef marine park. Source: N McLachlan/HSI.

Lawrence Chlebeck from Humane Society International (HSI) told Yahoo News Australia that the court case is a “massive victory” not only for sharks but for the marine park, wildlife and ocean users.

“We’re all very excited - a lot of blood sweat and tears went into this case,” he said.

“Obviously there were times when we thought bureaucracy of government would be too much.

“We’re very thankful that the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) put politics aside and focused on logic and science, and that’s where we won the case.”

A hammerhead shark caught in a net in Queensland. Source: N McLachlan/HSI.
A hammerhead shark caught in a net in Queensland. Source: N McLachlan/HSI.

The target shark list of 19 species is also to be removed from the current permit and all tiger, bull and white sharks caught on drum lines are to be tagged before being released.

Mr Chlebeck said that prior to the ruling, sharks caught on drum lines would slowly die over a number of days.

“When a shark is caught on a drum line, they’d be hooked on that line for up to three days at a time, and most often it would die on the line from suffocation,” he said.

“And when the contractors showed up, if it belonged to 19 species of shark it would be shot.”

The ruling comes just days after HSI and Australian Marine Conservation Society called for tiger sharks to be declared endangered.

The Queensland government has been contacted for comment.

With AAP

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