Shark hooked by baited drumline captured 'thrashing around' off popular holiday Island

Oliver Scheele found the tawny nurse shark fighting for its life off Nelly Bay on Magnetic Island on Tuesday morning.

A community has come together to save a tawny nurse shark that was filmed fighting for its life off the coast of an Aussie island on Tuesday morning.

Local Oliver Scheele was flying his drone around Magnetic Island, off the coast of Townsville, “surveying and looking for ocean wildlife” early in the morning when he made the “sad” discovery.

“The top layer [of the water] today was clear enough so I instantly saw that something was attached to the drumline because when I first saw it, it was thrashing around a little bit,” he told Yahoo News, explaining he then relocated to get a better vantage point.

The tawny nurse shark caught on the baited drumline off Nelly Bay on Queensland’s Magnetic Island.
Oliver Scheele was flying his drone around Magnetic Island on Tuesday morning when he spotted the tawny nurse shark caught on a baited drumline. Source: Oliver Scheele

“I was able to go back down and he wasn’t thrashing anymore, which generally is a bad thing because it means they’ve lost energy. And when that happens, as well, bigger predators can come along and just kill them because they’re sitting in such a vulnerable spot.”

Call out to save shark's life

In a desperate attempt to save the nurse shark, Oliver posted footage of it caught on the baited hook to a Facebook group dedicated to the island’s marine life.

“Unfortunate sighting today,” he said. “Since it is illegal to tamper with drumlines, and I believe they only do the drumline rounds in the early morning, does anyone know how to notify the right people?”

Community members quickly chimed in on the post, providing information for the state’s Shark Control Program and Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF).

Struggling shark freed from drumline

Marine biologist Lawrence Scheele — another Maggie Island resident and Oliver’s brother — told Yahoo that thanks to everyone’s efforts, authorities were able to free the shark an hour-and-a-half after it was first seen in danger.

“They rarely can attend on call and they have a specific schedule where they check these things so once they finish doing maintenance and then a shark gets hooked, they won’t be back until the next morning or a few days after,” he said.

“So luckily we were able to get in contact with them, and they hadn’t yet done their island monitoring so they were able to come and straightaway go to that drumline.”

Lawrence said that while this incident had a happy ending, deceased marine life, including a lemon shark a few months ago, have previously been found on drumlines in the area.

A close-up of the tawny nurse shark caught on the bated drumline off Magnetic Island.
The island's community rallied around to save the tawny nurse shark caught on the baited drumline. Source: Oliver Scheele

Drumlines also catch turtles, whales and stingrays

Because baited drumlines are a “non-targeted deployment system”, there is often a “multitude of bycatch” like “dugongs, turtles, whales, stingrays and other less threatening sharks”, Lawrence said.

“It’s distressing to see the magnitude of these drumlines,” he added, noting that even if some animals are released alive they can later die from the stress of the experience.

According to the DAF’s website, traditional drumlines and catch alert drumlines use baited hooks to "target and catch potentially dangerous sharks, aiming to reduce the risk to people in the water at popular beaches”.

A petition to end shark culling and remove nets and drumlines in NSW and Queensland was created four years ago and continues to circulate. “These tactics and methods are cruel, outdated, and have been proved time and again not to protect swimmers and surfers,” it states.

Yahoo has contacted Queensland’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for comment.

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