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Lethal component of shark control program in GBR to end

Sharks have emerged victorious in today's judgement of Humane Society International's landmark legal action against shark culling in the Great Barrier Reef. The Administrative Appeals Tribunal has ordered an end to lethal culling in the World Heritage-listed Reef. They have mandated nine very important variations on the permit for 173 lethal drumlines within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

The Tribunal found that killing sharks does not reduce the risk of unprovoked shark interactions. They found the scientific evidence to be "overwhelming in this regard". It stated in its judgement that "it is plain from the evidence given in these proceedings that Queensland's lethal SCP is out of step with national and international developments."

The Tribunal has ordered that the list of 19 target species be ripped up and that sharks can no longer be killed by gunshot in the name of bather protection.

"Since the 1960s, sharks have been shot dead in the Great Barrier Reef. Today this has ended. This is a massive victory for sharks and marine wildlife. Humane Society International is extremely grateful to have been represented in court by the Environmental Defenders Office NSW and barristers Saul Holt QC and Natasha Hammond,” said Lawrence Chlebeck, Marine Campaigner at HSI.

The Tribunal ordered that the drumlines must be checked more frequently and that any sharks found alive on a drumline be released. It also ordered that tiger, bull and white sharks must be tagged before being released alive off shore. SMART drumlines are to be trialled and implemented in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park as soon as reasonably possible. The Tribunal has also required that non-lethal alternatives to drumlines must be researched.

"The judgement makes it crystal clear that non-lethal technology is the way forward for shark control in the Great Barrier Reef. As a result of this judgement, finding that killing sharks has no impact on bather safety, HSI calls on the Queensland Government to update its shark management program along the whole Queensland coast," continued Mr Chlebeck.

Based on the evidence presented, the Tribunal concluded that the tiger shark has undergone a significant reduction in its population in the Great Barrier Reef.

Since July 2016, at least 432 animals drowned on lethal drumlines within the Great Barrier Reef and at least 91 sharks were found alive and then shot dead by a contractor employed by the Queensland Government.

"This is a hugely important victory that is going to save the lives of hundreds of sharks. The Tribunal has ordered a move away from a lethal shark control program to a system that better protects bathers, sharks and the Reef,” continued Mr Chlebeck.

HSI thanks our supporters and the 100,000 people who took action calling for an end to the shark culling program within the Great Barrier Reef, and the Australian public who have increasingly gone on the record as Shark Champions and advocates for personal responsibility when enjoying our oceans.

HSI also sincerely thanks the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for hearing this important case and giving the issue of lethal shark control the scientific and legal scrutiny it warrants.

Administrative Appeals Tribunal decision (full decision attached):

1. The current permit is to be varied to include a condition requiring the permittee (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority) to carry out the Shark Control Program in a manner that avoids, to the greatest extent possible, the lethal take of shark species;

2. The target shark list is to be removed from the current permit;

3. The current permit is to be varied to ensure that the euthanasia of sharks caught on the drum lines is only to be undertaken on animal welfare grounds, specifically when a shark is unlikely to survive release due to its condition or an injury, or which cannot be safely removed alive due to weather conditions or hooking location;

4. The current permit is to be varied to ensure sharks are attended to as soon as possible when captured on drum lines, preferably within 24 hours;

5. The current permit is to be varied to ensure all tiger, bull and white sharks caught on drum lines are tagged, using best available technology, before being released so that their movements may be monitored and researched;

6. The current permit is to be varied to ensure tagged sharks be relocated off shore, where possible, and not at site of capture;

7. The current permit is to be varied to ensure SMART drum lines are trialled and implemented on a progressive basis as soon a reasonably possible;

8. The current permit is to be varied to include a condition that requires research to be conducted into alternative non-lethal shark control measures; and

9. The current permit is to be varied to include a condition requiring research be conducted into the tiger shark population.


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