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Estimates: Questions about shark nets

During Parliamentary Budget Estimates on Wednesday 2 August 2023, I asked the Director-General of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, and Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries and Rural Communities, about the government's ongoing use of shark nets.

You can read the answers below or in the official Queensland Parliament Record of Proceedings (Hansard).

Mr BERKMAN: I have a question about the shark control program. There were 15 humpback whales entangled in government shark nets last year and there have been at least four entanglements so far this year. Director-General, what information does the government collect on the outcomes of these entanglements, including the injuries and survival rates of released whales, and the environmental and safety impacts of unrecovered shark control equipment?

Dr Sarra: I understand that we do have detailed information in that regard. I will just check with my department on the specifics of that information. I am informed by my department that we monitor the release of whales. The member already is across the numbers. We do not pursue them or track them after that. We are continually committed to the improvement of that shark control program. To answer your question, I cannot give you a number on that because we do not track them subsequent to their release.

Mr BERKMAN: Minister, since there is no evidence that sharks nets actually reduce the risk of shark bites to swimmers and that other governments like New South Wales have changed practice to minimise harm to other species, are we keeping shark nets in place during whale migration season purely for political reasons?

CHAIR: That question contained an argument or an opinion. Is there something the minister wants to quickly add?

Mr FURNER: We make no decisions based around political advantage. They are decisions based on protecting Queenslanders from shark attacks. The program has been in existence since 1962. Certainly, there have been two unfortunate deaths during that period. Beyond those two, most were outside the areas of the shark control program. We are working with Surf Life Saving Queensland around drone technology, other technologies and catch-and-release drum lines. Technology is moving here as in other states. It would be great to see advancements in the future where we can ensure that people are free from sustaining shark bites upon entering the ocean, but we cannot prevent people from swimming outside the zones where they are, to a large degree, provided. Certainly the member for Burleigh and I know that, given that we were formerly surf lifesavers. One is better served swimming in patrolled areas where there are Queensland Surf Life Saving people who protect people from the likelihood of shark attack.

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