Sharks are no different from pigs, kangaroos and wild horses and an increase in their numbers should be dealt with by culling them, Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) North Queensland MP Rob Katter says.
Mr Katter joined the LNP’s federal Hinkler MP Keith Pitt in calling for a shark cull, despite shark researchers dismissing the move as ineffective and the Queensland Government ruling out the placement of permanent drum lines in the Whitsundays.
The call for a shark cull comes in response to the death of Melbourne doctor Daniel Christidis, 33, after he was mauled by a shark at Cid Harbour in the Whitsundays on Monday night.
His death came six weeks after a 12-year-old girl and a 46-year-old woman survived shark attacks in the same spot.
The State Government temporarily installed baited drum lines in Cid Harbour in the wake of the September attacks, catching and destroying six large sharks — including five tiger sharks.
State Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington is calling for drum lines to be in place at Cid Harbour permanently.
“We’ve seen three shark attacks, one ending in an absolute tragedy, and they don’t have a shark control program, so obviously something more needs to happen,” she said.
The KAP has long advocated culling to deal with a rise in the crocodile population of north Queensland, and Mr Katter said sharks should be added to the list.
“Culling should certainly be thrown in the mix,” he said.
“I’m no expert on shark management, but I am an expert on listening to people and if you talk to people who have been going out there 30 years, whether they’re from Cairns, Whitsundays, Townsville, whether they’re recreational fisherman, whether they’re professional fisherman, they tell you the same thing — that the numbers have grown, they’ve exploded in some areas where it was never like that before.
“Now if you had problems with pigs, kangaroos, wild horses, we manage them through culling, all types of effective means, and I know from our efforts with crocodile management numbers in north Queensland that the (State) Government will run 100 miles from any solution that involves killing animals in the process.
“I know we need to be strong with this in the KAP and hold the Government to account. Because I’m sure some part of the solution will be culling or drum lines or those sort of things and the Government is going to run a mile.
“It should be noted that just about every expert who gets rattled out by Fisheries or employed by the Government or any other scientist that’s rattled out conveniently seems to contradict what’s said by the commercial fishermen who spend all day out there on those seas observing what’s going on.”
Mr Pitt said sharks were at “plague proportions” off the Queensland coast.
“We have another grieving family in Australia due to a fatal shark attack. I think that’s unacceptable,” he said.
“I think it’s time for action.”
Mr Pitt argued reducing shark numbers would reduce the risk to people.
“If it comes down to a choice between a child or an adult… and a shark, well I’m going with the people,” he said.
‘There will always be sharks’
But shark researcher at James Cook University, Professor Colin Simpfendorfer, said culls rarely work.
“The species that are normally responsible for these sorts of bites are animals that move over large distances,” he told ABC News.
“Bull sharks we know move all the way from the Great Barrier Reef down to New South Wales. Tiger sharks move thousands of kilometres every year.
“These animals are highly mobile so these very localised sorts of programs rarely work to actually reduce risks for swimmers.”
On Thursday, Queensland Fisheries Minister Mark Furner rejected calls for a broader shark cull.
“That is way over the top. There is no science behind that,” Mr Furner said.
“There would be no guarantees of safety by introducing a shark cull. There will always be sharks in the oceans.”
The State Government will meet with marine experts and tourism operators in Airlie Beach on Friday to discuss long-term solutions to the shark threat in northern Queensland.