Safety warning after shark hooked by drumline at popular Queensland beach

·Environment Editor
·4-min read

Footage of a juvenile shark entangled in a drumline at a popular Sunshine Coast surf break has led to renewed criticism of the controversial Queensland government program.

While the devices are normally fixed in position, and subject to exclusion zones, the drumline can be seen floating close to shore.

It’s the second such incident to occur this month, with another becoming dislodged off Bribie Island’s Woorim Beach on April 11.

A shark hooked by a drumline was seen close to the shore at Sunrise Beach. Source: Supplied
A shark hooked by a drumline was seen close to the shore at Sunrise Beach. Source: Supplied

With many locals still haunted by the 1992 drowning of a 9-year-old boy who died after becoming entangled in a drumline, recent events have escalated concern about beachgoer safety.

Australian Marine Conservation Society shark expert Dr Leonardo Guida said aside from the drumline itself, the smaller shark’s presence could make waters more dangerous.

“What’s also of concern is that you have a struggling fish close to shore which is going to be like ringing a dinner bell for a larger, opportunistic shark that might not otherwise come close to shore,” he told Yahoo News Australia.

Shark drumline footage causes ‘outrage and anger’

The anonymously supplied footage went viral yesterday after it was sent to Envoy Foundation - a vocal critic of the state’s shark “control” measures.

It shows a juvenile shark thrashing close to shore at Sunrise Beach with ropes and buoys attached to its body.

Speaking to Yahoo News Australia on Wednesday, Envoy Foundation’s Andre Borell, said his group was “flooded” with messages from people expressing “shock and anger” at the incident.

“There’s an overwhelming sense that the program is contradictory and hypocritical," he said.

“This equipment is supposed to be keeping us safe and it washes into a surf zone with a shark attached, plus it’s a drowning hazard.”

Queensland authorities stand by shark control program

Queensland's Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) is yet to directly answer questions from Yahoo News Australia in regards to whether the two recent incidents were isolated, or if they posed a risk to public safety.

The department was unable to provide details on the shark's condition.

"Late yesterday, the Shark Control Program dispatched a contractor to Sunrise Beach after receiving a report of shark washed up on Sunrise Beach with a drum line attached," a spokesperson said in a statement.

"The shark was not observed in area and the drumline has now been replaced."

Drumlines were photographed floating off Bribie Island on April 11. Source: Peter Garbett, Dolphin Research Australia
Drumlines were photographed floating off Bribie Island on April 11. Source: Peter Garbett, Dolphin Research Australia

DAF said it is committed to trialling new shark mitigation technologies, which include "catch-alert drumlines".

"Queensland’s Shark Control Program (SCP) aims to reduce the risk of shark bites at 86 of Queensland’s most popular swimming beaches using shark control equipment,"a spokesperson added.

"Since the SCP started in 1962, there have only been two shark fatalities at Queensland beaches where shark control equipment was in place."

More on the Queensland government's drumline program

‘Massive welfare issue’: Concern for shark hooked by drumline

Sea Shepherd’s Lauren Sandeman told Yahoo News Australia that while the shark was seen alive yesterday, its fate is currently unknown.

“These drumlines don't have trackers on them, so people on the ground have been unable to relocate the shark,” she said.

“This poor shark is dragging a massive drumline hook in its mouth, it’s dragging buoys, it's dragging chains, over the surf break.

“It's a massive animal with welfare issue, as well as a public safety one.”

Why deadly end could await shark if it's rescued

Dr Guida described the impact of the the entanglement on the shark as being like doing “a 100m sprint, but over and over again for at least half an hour”.

“Like us humans, sharks use white muscle for burst-power which exhausts quickly, and it's this muscle they use to fight being caught.”

If the shark doesn’t succumb to its injuries and is found alive by Queensland fisheries, it will likely not be released.

A total of 19 target species are routinely shot by officers when they are ensnared by drumlines.

“It's time for the Queensland Government to pull out the drumlines for good - drones can be put up in their place and aren't going to become ghost fishing gear, or hook and drown a swimmer,” Dr Guida said.

“Although it's great to see Queensland use drones at some beaches, there's no excuse to keep drumlines in the water.”

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