'What are we waiting for?' Experts warn Qld shark-control strategy is outdated

Kimberley Bernard
Swellnet Dispatch

The NSW Shark Management Strategy will use drones to monitor 50 beaches (Photo: NSW DPI, Southern Cross University)

Marine experts warn Queensland's almost 60-year-old shark-control program is "outdated" and fails to protect the growing numbers of swimmers entering Gold Coast waters. 

It comes as New South Wales pumps millions of dollars into pilot programs to reduce the incidence of shark encounters with humans.

Olaf Meynecke of Griffith University said the Queensland government was trailing behind its NSW counterpart, which was investing in "world-first" technologies to mitigate shark bites.

He warned that unless safety measures were improved, there would likely be an increase in shark bites in Queensland waters as the Gold Coast's population was predicted to double by 2041.

But Queensland Fisheries Minister Mark Furner is standing by the state's existing program, which dates back to 1962, saying he will not make changes to it until alternatives "supported by science" are available in the Sunshine State.

His comment comes years after the government's own scientific working group suggested changes to the Queensland shark-control program.

Massive funding for beach next door

Last week, the NSW government announced $21.4 million for the "world's largest shark-management program".

A raft of "effective, evidence-based" technologies, including a beefed-up shark-spotting drone program and an expansion of SMART drumlines, will stretch from the Bega Valley to the Tweed.

"I find it quite unfortunate that here in Queensland we are not seeing any of those changes implemented," Dr Meynecke said.

"It has always been argued that Queensland is waiting for NSW to demonstrate the success of some of those programs, and the success is clearly there."

NSW will expand its shark-control program, but Queensland has no plans to remove nets (Photo: DPI)

In a statement to the ABC, Mr Furner said his department was "committed to continual improvement" but said science-based changes were contingent on "effective alternatives suitable to Queensland conditions".

He said NSW's new shark-control measures had "no impact or effect" on Queensland's program.

The Queensland government has committed $1 million a year for four years to conduct various trials, including trialling drones in three coastal regions and assessing other deterrents such as catch-alert drumlines.

It currently spends about $10.3 million on its existing nets and drumlines program.

More risk as population swells

With migration to seaside regions booming, Dr Meynecke fears there will  be more shark bites as increasing numbers of people take to the water.

"Statistically the chance of shark encounter increases," he said.

Dr Meynecke says the best move for Queensland would be to start trialling SMART drumlines in place of shark nets off the Gold and Sunshine coasts.

Dr Meynecke says chances of a shark bite increase every year, as more people migrate to the coast (Photo:: Tara Cassidy)

"We can't rely on nets being put in the ocean sometime in the 1960s — that is a very outdated method — just hoping that a shark randomly swims into one of those nets and is removed from the water," he said.

"There is never 100 per cent safety, but there is enough evidence that shark nets are not actually helping us protect beach-goers, but there are other ways we can definitely make it a bit safer.

"All there is is hope that there will be change coming soon."

Mr Furner did not respond to the ABC's questions about when the trials would be completed or if the Queensland program was suitable for a population increase.

No changes to current program

Mr Furner told the ABC the government had no plan to remove shark nets or drumlines from Queensland waters.

Dr Meynecke says he expects the program, which is under ongoing public scrutiny due to its lethal nature, is here to stay.

"From what I understand, the call is that there will be no changes in the coming years," he said.

"I am not quite sure [why], what are we waiting for?"

A typical example of how drumlines used in Queensland operate (Photo: Queensland Government)

A Senate committee report handed down in 2017 concluded shark nets were ineffective in stopping shark bites, and suggested the state adopt "emerging technologies" in conjunction with a shark alert app.

Since 2019, the Queensland government's own scientific working group voiced its support to replace some nets with drumlines during the whale migration season.

© Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.


Craig H Bishop's picture
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Craig H Bishop Sunday, 26 Sep 2021 at 9:40am

In Monterey California, marine scientists tag sharks to track them. This has given them a much clearer picture of their general movements. Are Australian Marine Scientists doing the same? Basic knowledge like that combined with info on when and where surfers surf could be used to optimise drone based shark spotting deployments. Presumably, drones can't see sharks when the water is murky - that needs to be accounted for.

An argument I once heard in favor of shark nets suggested that the "smell" of so many dead sharks in the nets kept other sharks away. Might a more effective way of getting sharks out of a general area would be to do underwater broadcasts of recordings of earlier underwater recordings that Orca (Killer Whale) pods have amongst themselves while they snack on great whites and other sharks? (Not sure if sharks can hear very well). (Apparently, the livers of great white sharks are quite the delicacy for Orcas).

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indo-dreaming Sunday, 26 Sep 2021 at 9:58am

Yeah i think there is a number of shark tracking programs even an app, here is a link to a NSW run shark tracking program.

You can click on each shark tagged and see where they have been, they get around too


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indo-dreaming Sunday, 26 Sep 2021 at 9:54am

The majority of nets are around Sydney and Gold Coast yeah, and that's where there is a very high number of surfers and swimmers, with huge increases in the last 30+ years, but looking at the stats for these areas on open beaches it seems both areas have had about one serious attack in about 70 years.

While going back to the 30s there is a number of attacks on Sydney beaches and at least two on the Gold coast open beaches when back then the number of people in the water would have been far less.

Off course i guess it could be argued there was more sharks too.


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criso Sunday, 26 Sep 2021 at 12:02pm

Yes the more people in the water the more chance of a shark bite of course. The population of both humans and sharks are growing at the same time adds up to more human taste testing by hungry fish. More sharks less fish, more humans less fish. It all points to more attacks. Most sharks caught in beach protection nets are caught on the inside of the net.

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freeride76 Sunday, 26 Sep 2021 at 12:48pm

The science is incredibly clear.

Nets+ drumlines are the most effective mitigation strategy.

Animal welfare/bycatch is the only intellectually honest argument to be made against the QLD shark control program, otherwise it's advocacy, not science.

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Yippee Monday, 27 Sep 2021 at 1:41pm

Spot on mate.

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calk Sunday, 26 Sep 2021 at 1:07pm
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hamishbro Sunday, 26 Sep 2021 at 1:25pm

This is complete spin. Not supported by the attack numbers at all. Needs to be a separate category for FNQ tiger attacks and SE Queensland attacks. Evidence shows clearly that drum lines and nets used in SE Qld have minimised potential encounters and fatalities compared with NSW waters which is now 5-6 times more dangerous (this based on fatalities on either side of the border in last two years). This article is another Trojan horse by “marine experts” who are obsessed by technology and tracking over the hard truths of ensuring shark numbers are kept under control.

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Gary Hall Sunday, 26 Sep 2021 at 8:35pm

Spot on mate

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Chonglang Monday, 27 Sep 2021 at 5:45am

Obsessed by technology, tracking and - of course - money.

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truebluebasher Sunday, 26 Sep 2021 at 3:12pm

hamishbro wins the prize... here's the mop up...yet more WR [L]ittle Ripperz goin' in for the kill.
Or is it a 1-2 combined Smart Buoys Attack on Labor...
It's oozing out the internet ...
Firstly! There are 6 NSW communities wishing to end Nets & NSW Govt refuse ..(Not Mentioned?)
Surely to first work with NSW Beaches that beg for change than undermine those that can't!

One look inside the Little Ripper Smart Buoys Annual
Sharky Northern NSW are still long constantly denied & or not locked into NSW mitigation.
tbb again Salutes our vasty under resourced neighbours for stepping up to assist Goldie in hour of need.

Goldie tbb swears SEQ Shark mitigation is ever open to realistic change.
Yes! Drones are part of Shark / Croc mitigation trials...but they have untold obvious restrictions.

1) Goldie WSR & Sunny beaches are No Fly Airport Zones ( No SLSQ drones Permitted)
2) Drones are also prohibited to Fly during & near inshore Sharky Whale Migrations
3) SLSQ don't operate during Surfer's peak a/h weekdays - offshore winter Surf Sessions
4) NSW prioritize all Summer Holiday Shark Drones for Covid SD policing (re: web site!)
5) Drones can't fly in Heatwaves / Crowded Days / Windy / Large Surf / Storm / Lightning Conditions.
6) Drones have preset flight Grids that fall well short of smallest Points > Capes
7) Shades & filters for early / midday / arvo glare reduce visual range, ruling out any time for a paddle in.

Shark Towers scared Land Sharks > Can't see Net expense > Drone Halo saves the beach...sign here!
When weather & Polls are perfect, Govt's Little Ripper messages how much he cares...SHARK! Wot!
Be decades before their silly games turn these 'Expert Drones' into a half serious contenders.
Each 2m shark sighting every 2 hrs shuts the beach until next 2hr sighting...forget about surfing.
Reward Shark Spotting > Close beach often > Dangerous Beach Sign > Private Lease > No trespassers

Port Access
Goldie WSR & Sunny buoys have no Port Access for 'Live release' macho sized GWS Vessels
Tweed are refused Shark mitigation, so doubt Qld can hook up to invisible NSW Smart Tweed Port
Just adding that WSL loves fondling our Nets.

Also note that the Nets don't prohibit migration but invite migration closer.
Whale Pingers represent a desk bell in a Beauty Salon for darling itchy junior's full body scrub.
Marinelife are drawn to Scratch Pads & Treatment Rooms to remove parasites and infected teeth.
Humans can measure & reduce record parasitic uprising & set these poor sea creatures free.
tbb will reserve the exact nature & full workings of upturned beds thru to Inshore Treatment Rooms.

tbb is no net fan...go the extra miles to surf a no net nothing NSW Fingal beach.
But gotta draw the line with this World Record Little Ripper Shark Mitigation Frenzy.
Salute NSW Govt for sparing us another non WR mock trial...kicking that habit earns a Happy Ending!

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Gary Hall Sunday, 26 Sep 2021 at 8:39pm

Champion comment, DH.

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Jamyardy Sunday, 26 Sep 2021 at 3:14pm

I imagined the SE QLD strategy to be the best in the country when it comes to protecting people from sharks in the water at their beaches.
Meanwhile in WA they had recently announced $17 million for its shark mitigation program, the bulk of the funds going to aerial patrols by choppers, the rest to tagging whites, beach enclosures, and shark deterrent devices.

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tubeshooter Sunday, 26 Sep 2021 at 4:01pm

Definitely smells of advocacy . Dr Meynecke is a known conservationist .

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bbbird Sunday, 26 Sep 2021 at 5:44pm

For 40k years; NT locals use to swim safely by watching the largest crocodile sunning on the bank (as it had biggest territorial area) and call the kids in if it when for a swim.
When the soldiers finished WW2 they shot & sold the biggest Croc's in NT; shooting stopped in the 1970's when there were few (est 5k juveniles ) left. The juveniles are now gown up without natural controls... so...

Be Crocwise, the NT government’s long-running public awareness program, warns: “Any body of water in the Top End may contain large and potentially dangerous crocodiles.”
Given the ever-present threat, Egan says it’s the Northern Territory government’s position that it cannot be responsible for public behaviour when it comes to crocodile risk.

“We can’t keep you safe. You have to do it yourself,” she says.

“That’s part of why I need to publish as much information about what the risk is … so people can make their own choice.”
Reference via calk above

We mechanised humans dont know enough, but feel a need to control & wipe everything off the planet in 250 years ....for what.....a wave?

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Thegrowingtrend.com Sunday, 26 Sep 2021 at 6:59pm

yeh nah just put a fish on a hook and float it out the back, sheeel be right

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Spuddups Monday, 27 Sep 2021 at 8:52am

Crocodiles are next level aye. I wonder if they'll ever end up migrating to the Gold Coast. Things could get interesting then.

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calk Monday, 27 Sep 2021 at 9:14pm
D-Rex's picture
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D-Rex Monday, 27 Sep 2021 at 9:14am

bbb writes -
'We mechanised humans dont know enough, but feel a need to control & wipe everything off the planet in 250 years ....for what.....a wave?'

This closing remark is at complete odds with the rest of your comment. Having mounted a sound argument for culling crocs, you then effectively said 'don't cull sharks'??????????!!!!!!!!!!

radiationrules's picture
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radiationrules Monday, 27 Sep 2021 at 10:03am

I recall shannan worrell (shark eyes business) was gonna publish a white paper on the latest shark mitigation research; came from his interview with swellnet last year?

Shaun Hanson's picture
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Shaun Hanson Monday, 27 Sep 2021 at 12:25pm

Yep ..drones and tags are the answer if you want to know there was a shark around after you get out of the water ...you'd be better of spending the money on hospital beds or ambulances at least you would have somewhere to recover after an attack and a ride to hospital ..

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Smorto Monday, 27 Sep 2021 at 12:41pm

I wonder if Qld methods are 'outdated' because they are potentially lethal to sharks or if they are genuinely less effective in preventing attacks???

I suspect that this conclusion has nothing to do with effectiveness and all to do with not including non lethal methods, which is the most 'PC' and 'university scientist' approved control arrangements right now.

In their defence, it going to be very hard for anyone studying a marine PHD is going to come out and recommend more lethal methods, it's not really a conservationist type recommendation, plus they'll get roasted at the post-grad university common room!

I'm certainly no expert, but I'd feel much safer for myself (and my kids) with nets in place (at a metropolitan beach only of course) and drum lines compared to a drone and a pinger buoy.

frog's picture
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frog Monday, 27 Sep 2021 at 1:10pm

Qld should start naming their nets as Smart and stick an electronic device on the buoy that sends a re-assuring ping signal every 5 minutes to an internet app signalling they are active.

That would create the additional magic sauce needed to update an effective method (with 60 years proof of minimal attacks):
- "Smart" as the prefix descriptor of the method (e.g. note how big baited hook became Smart Drumline)
- a system that has an internet app (apps fix everything and sound cool).

Perhaps re name Shark Nets "Smart Strategic Barrier Technology System" with cool acronym of SSBTS!

Bingo - "outdated strategy" (that works) becomes all internetty, sparkly and new.

D-Rex's picture
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D-Rex Monday, 27 Sep 2021 at 1:03pm

Yeah, let's spend $billions on ineffective methods as opposed to a cupla grand for a real solution.

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Stephen Allen Monday, 27 Sep 2021 at 1:13pm

The only SMART measures are those that save swimmers and save sharks. SMART drumlines are only as smart as their advocates... not very smart.

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tubeshooter Monday, 27 Sep 2021 at 2:27pm

Meynecke is actually not a bad bloke , I met him once at a Kirra Reef meeting , his hearts in the right place. But I think he needs to keep using his drones for counting whales and collecting whale snot.
Conservation biologists have to work extra hard to prove their findings aren't tainted by their personal or institutional values. In this case I think he's overstepped the mark.

Here he is telling whale watch operators how to plan for climate change events that 'may' impact the industry... just in case their business didn't know how to manage bad weather periods.

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freeride76 Monday, 27 Sep 2021 at 2:54pm

V. interesting interview with Paul Butcher from the DPI on the ABC North Coast this morning.

Paul is in charge of the Smart Drum line program which is about to be expanded.

When asked about shark numbers he hemmed and hawed before admitting there are now more sharks around.

First time I've heard that from an offical shark scientist.

frog's picture
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frog Monday, 27 Sep 2021 at 7:00pm

Cough, splutter, gag, snort in astonishment !

A scientist admitting there are more Great Whites around.

Unheard of event.

Like Scommo admitting he was wrong or Kelly Slater avoiding the spotlight.

Crikey. Still stunned.

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Norm de Ploom Tuesday, 28 Sep 2021 at 12:12pm

That certainly is an admission.
With GWS outnumbering the 12 odd other shark species caught in the Smart drumline program by roughly 1.6 to 1, the obvious conclusion is the protection program for the last 25 odd years has been an outstanding success..
A highlight for my money in one of the scientific papers published on the back of the program was that apparently GWS on the east coast remain threatened by “commercial and recreational fishing”.
Butcher was one of the authors.

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Shaun Hanson Monday, 27 Sep 2021 at 4:12pm

Endless opportunities for the spin doctors to make money ....research ..drones ..planes ...sharkeyes...magnets around your ankle . .drumlines... tagging ..... ..increasing recreational fishing and association with boats and food ....cage diving ...meetings and graphs with circles and arrows ...endless bureaucratic lip service ...but alls normal we will waste a shitload of money that could of been spent somewhere better.....

simba's picture
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simba Monday, 27 Sep 2021 at 6:02pm

well heres whats happening in regards to deterrents........dont hold your breath,.By the size of that device those shark shields are probably too small to affect a sharks decision to attack.....could be wrong though


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Water_man Tuesday, 28 Sep 2021 at 6:10am

I remember Vic Hislop used to hang a dead shark outside his Shark Show at South Tweed. That was pretty effective in keeping me away from his establishment!

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tango Tuesday, 28 Sep 2021 at 9:15am

From arm's length in Victoria, where we've been lucky to not have the northern NSW issues, I'm struggling to join a few dots and reconcile some of the comments above.

We all agree that it would be a nightmare to get hit by a shark, and many of us sit waiting for the bump when we're surfing. I'm sure that risk is front and centre for everyone up north, and that must feel bloody awful when you're trying to enjoy a few waves.

So a few questions:

Why do people assume the scientists and officials in charge of programs are somehow in it for their own good, chasing the dollars or being coy with the information? It sounds a bit like the conspiracy crew and covid-19 to me. Sure, a bit of healthy scrutiny is essential, and there are probably a few who have ulterior motives, but if you think these people who work professionally in these areas are motivated in that way, you have obviously never met them, let alone worked with them. If you've got concerns, why not focus on the politicians and executive management of the various agencies who have the actual control over communication, budgets and programs?

Why is there so much pissing on the tent? Surely its better to be on the inside of it, and with the focus of all government programs on consultation (yes, or the appearance of it) I'm wondering why aren't there surfing groups who have been involved in the issue? Why aren't they part of the approach? And why aren't they getting the bagging? Where's their advocacy?

Why are people apparently satisfied with a paltry $21m being spent on a state-wide program to "protect beachgoers"? The economy of a single town would lose that in a week over summer if there was an attack. It's complete bullshit. In a purely economic sense the families of victims, like the poor bugger at Coffs, lose their breadwinner and millions in lost earnings and support. Or perhaps the government think only $21m is what the risk is worth to protect lives and the tourism sector.

Why do we see sharks as an unacceptable risk that "they" have to do something about, when we seem pretty happy to get in the car and drive all over when the risk of a car accident is far higher? We know very little about shark behaviour and have very little control over it, but we know a hell of a lot about driver behaviour and car safety and have a lot of control over it.

Surfing is a dangerous thing to do and injuries, even deaths, happen much more often that most people think - eg the bloke killed at Margs Main Break last month (https://beachgrit.com/2021/08/horror-day-in-margaret-river-as-popular-lo...). But I don't hear calls for the reef to be graded so you can't get your leggy caught and drown.

The earlier comment about the NT and crocs was spot on - the NT government know that you can reduce the risk within reason but to try and control crocs is impossible. It really seems to come down to understanding the risks and assuming some responsibility for their own safety. We're not entitled to use the ocean "safely". We never were.

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Smorto Tuesday, 28 Sep 2021 at 11:52am

I don't think its an issue of being assured of safety in the ocean, but more the right to take measures to protect ourselves for the very small sections of the inshore zone that we frequent in high numbers, even if those measures are harmful to sharks.

Metropolitan inshore zones are as much our environment as any shark, probably more given the time we spend within those certain inshore zones compared to large sharks. So why shouldn't we be allowed to reduce the risks through control measures that may be fatal to sharks?

Also not sure about the NT comparison either, aside from the fact that Darwin is the only real metropolitan area and it has average swimming beaches, if a croc pops up near the City in Darwin they catch it and relocate it. So despite all the warnings etc., they still take measures to protect highly populated coastlines.

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tango Wednesday, 29 Sep 2021 at 11:57am

Good points, Smorto.

The issue of "right" is an interesting one, especially in the context of recovering populations pushed towards the very low numbers of both crocs and white sharks. I'm sure the NT Govt will resort to killing a danger out croc, but I can't find a reference to it in the NT Croc Risk Management Framework developed this year.

I think there's a case for culling a "rogue" animal responsible for an attack or a series of attacks, but the more we see footage of white sharks in close proximity to people in the water and not attacking anyone I think the case for indiscriminate killing of them just because they are there, or may be there, doesn't stack up as easily.

I think control measures that "may be fatal to sharks" are most often the least expensive, but most likely to have the greatest ecological impact. Hence my point on the paltry $21m.

I agree re the difficulty managing sharks and high numbers of people, but I'd point out that there's going to be hundreds of km of coast that could be deemed a priority for managing sharks. And re your point that the inshore environment is as much ours as it is sharks', I think we have a choice to enter the ocean, and they don't have that choice.

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freeride76 Wednesday, 29 Sep 2021 at 12:27pm

Tango, did you see my posts below about Crocodile management in NT and QLD?

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tango Wednesday, 29 Sep 2021 at 12:42pm

Getting there, FR....

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Smorto Wednesday, 29 Sep 2021 at 12:31pm

Hey tango you make some good points also. Although I think that the primary reason for white and croc populations being brought to the brink was more to do with indiscriminate fishing / hunting for sport/fun/commercial reasons as opposed to managed control measures for human safety reasons.

The populations of both species have clearly made significant recoveries and I'd doubt that continued drum line / netting solutions, and maybe even targeted culling of obvious attack culprits (Byron & Casuarina examples) would have any significant overall impact on populations.

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tubeshooter Tuesday, 28 Sep 2021 at 12:14pm

When a scientist with conservationist leanings puts something like this out there it's up for debate whether it is advocacy or science. That's pretty standard.
This from 'Advocacy science and fisheries decision making' J.Rice
"Science advice is supposed to meet idealistic standards for objectivity, impartiality, and lack of bias. Acknowledging that science advisors are imperfect at meeting those standards, they nonetheless need to strive to produce sound, non-partisan advice, because of the privileged accountability given to science advice in decision-making. When science advisors cease to strive for those ideals and promote advocacy science, such advice loses the right to that privileged position. There are temptations to shape science advice by using information that “strengthens” the conservation case selectively. Giving in to such temptation, however, dooms the advice; science advice becomes viewed as expressions of the biases of those who provide it rather than reflecting the information on which the advice is based. Everyone, including the ecosystems, loses. There are ways to increase the impact of science advice on decision-making that do not involve perverting science advice into advocacy: peer review by diverse experts, integrating advice on ecological, economic, and social information and outcomes, and focusing advisory approaches on risks, costs, and trade-offs of different types of management error. These approaches allow the science experts to be active, informed participants in the governance processes to aid sound decision-making, not to press for preselected outcomes. Everyone, including the ecosystems, wins." .. https://academic.oup.com/icesjms/article/68/10/2007/614605

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tango Wednesday, 29 Sep 2021 at 12:22pm

Tubeshooter, you raise a few good points here.

The scientist in question may well have conservationist leanings - I don't know him at all and am taking your word for it. From my experience it would be very difficult to be a marine scientist of any kind and not be leaning towards conservation, especially because a) the science shows that most, if not all, of the world's marine systems are being impacted by human activities and/or in some form of decline resulting in a loss of species diversity and abundance; and b) the explicit management aims of both conservation (eg Marine parks) and exploitation (eg fisheries, tourism) strategies is to have a sustainable approach to the resource and the various ecosystem services at play.

He says "....but there is enough evidence that shark nets are not actually helping us protect beach-goers, but there are other ways we can definitely make it a bit safer." I don't quite understand how we get conservation out of this message - it strikes me as being much more about human safety and using the latest tech/approaches as per NSW. Perhaps the NSW approach isn't shown by the evidence to be as effective as the Qld method, I'm not sure.

The article by Rice is interesting and I think he has many good points in it, many of which aren't immediately apparent in the abstract you posted. There is a lot of complexity in the issue which we could spend all day on. What I find interesting through my experience of working in environmental, social and economic research science and applied science/policy is that intersection of science and management. Pure science has its place, and I think that is a context where it's much easier to have no advocacy. But the science that underpins the management of the environment and people is generally undertaken and interpreted in a completely different context. Often the research will be explicitly framed to respond to management issues or be set up with a methodology that lends itself to the application of the results in the real world via management actions or policy. So if you have a marine scientist citing evidence to "advocate" for the use of different technology to address a problem focussed on human safety, I think it's a long bow to draw to accuse them of bringing any real bias into it and suggesting they have a predetermined outcome.

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frog Tuesday, 28 Sep 2021 at 12:44pm

"Why do people assume the scientists and officials in charge of programs are somehow in it for their own good, chasing the dollars or being coy with the information? "

The frustration is the apparent avoidance in Australia of any statement in recent years from the scientific and research community that could be seen to suggest that Great Whites are anything but rare and endangered or that there has very likely been a significant increase in numbers and in risks for people as so many ocean users observe. This creates the impression that they are not being truthful or have their eyes firmly on the next grant and pleasing their conservation focussed colleagues ahead of public safety and openness.

Search the Australian media and the message is remarkably consistent

In the USA, in contrast, the researchers seem to state the obvious quite freely:

"Chris Lowe, the director of the shark lab at California State University, Long Beach, has already tagged a record 38 sharks, triple the number that were tagged last year.

“Normally they’d be leaving by now, but instead we are seeing more sharks than ever,” Lowe told the Guardian.

Lowe found that there are a record number of baby and juvenile sharks who stick around longer than usual — normally this time of year the sharks will migrate to Baja, California, but this year they haven’t — likely due to climate change. “We may have white sharks here year-round,” Lowe told the paper.

In Monterey Bay, David Ebert, who directs the Pacific Shark Research Center at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, says he has also seen a similar rise in sharks off the coast."


A breath of fresh air to read such straight talk not caged in double speak and vagueness we find here in Australia.

By being so hesitant to admit GW population growth is strong and risks to ocean users are increasing, the Australian scientific community is doing themselves and their credibility significant harm. They may not be able to make us safe and but at least we should all be talking about how to deal with increased risk openly.

Crocodiles get protected and everyone agrees on the logical outcome we see before us. But Great Whites, not so much...

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tango Wednesday, 29 Sep 2021 at 12:39pm

I understand the sense of frustration, frog, but I'm struggling to understand why there would be any sort of misrepresentation from scientists. It sounds like a lot of people are seeing more whites and making the obvious leap that the population is recovering, but because the science doesn't support that anecdotal evidence people think the scientists are effectively corrupt or fraudulent. Are you aware of research that has been done that is being misrepresented or suppressed?

I'd be interested to know where the lion's share of shark research funding comes from the criteria any grant application is assessed against and who makes the decision to spend funds.

I've taken your advice and googled it all, but the only references I can find to any sort of conspiracy is in the Murdoch media. Who'd have thought? I suppose that's how they sell papers.

It's interesting that the bloke in the NYPost article also says:
"There are so many people in the water: you have paddleboards, kayaks, wetsuits, but the number of attacks hasn’t really changed. That tells you that people are not on the menu, they’re not out here hunting people.”

I'm not sure exactly what studies have been done in California compared to the work from NSW or Qld. Perhaps they've actually done the work to say clearly that there are lots more sharks and they can speak to the published and peer-reviewed science. Maybe people need to hit up their local member to increase the shark research budget rather than belt the scientists, as many people seem inclined to do.

Completely agree that we should be able to have a good discussion about risk, though.

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frog Thursday, 30 Sep 2021 at 1:23pm

Here again from the NSW Dept

“there is no scientific evidence of an increase in the Eastern Australasia population of White Sharks.”

Technically it might be a defensible statement but this often repeated line does little to acknowledge the logical outcomes of 30 years of protection or anecdotal evidence.

If, however, such a statement, was followed by "we acknowledge that a logical outcome of protection since 1999 is very likely to be an increase in numbers of Great White Sharks in Australian waters", it would remove the apparent disconnect from reality we face in their communications.

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tango Thursday, 30 Sep 2021 at 2:46pm

Fair enough, I suppose, and I agree that it seems a logical outcome.

But can you imagine what would happen if the scientists and/or agencies issued statements about the "logical outcomes" of all controversial issues or management measures? A good example is the logical outcome of global warming - we are seeing the top end and beyond of the predictions made ages ago, but when there was anything that couldn't be backed up by robust science the muppetry dismissed it as opinion. Even now, 99% of people can plainly see logical outcomes while the irony of what the Nats will accept about climate science beggars belief.

The logic applied by people isn't consistent, so science tries to take that out of the equation. There are countless examples of a "logical" outcome being disproven by robust research and inquiry, because the applied logic was determined by the experience and bias of the person drawing the "logical conclusion".

Rather than merely being "technically defensible", it is probably scientifically correct cos they haven't done the work to answer the question with confidence. It's a slippery slope.

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boogiefever Sunday, 3 Oct 2021 at 1:10pm

Science is built on stats and facts.... Not hearsay and fb posts. Just because the science doesnt fit your opinion doesnt make it wrong. Until there is proof of shark number increase then there is nothing scientifically to report. More money is needed to study an animal and an environment we know very little about....

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boogiefever Sunday, 3 Oct 2021 at 1:13pm

Oh, and a quote from california re shark population is useless to australia.
Its akin to a report from china about kangaroo populations in beijing.

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frog Sunday, 3 Oct 2021 at 11:34pm

Ah ... kangaroos in Beijing. Such a good analogy.

So one should assume protecting an effective apex predator in a healthy ecosystem for 22 years has no impact on population growth as the default outcome unless exhaustive research conclusively proves otherwise is good science?

We are in safe hands.

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tango Monday, 4 Oct 2021 at 8:10am

There's a good example of the dangers of the application of logic in the debate. You're assuming the ecosystem is healthy, but a whole range of indicators show that the marine environment is in decline. That might make the situation a bit more complex.

Nobody seems to be advocating for exhaustive research, either - that's hyperbole. But expecting the science to back up opinions is the low road.

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hamishbro Saturday, 2 Oct 2021 at 6:21am

Just catching up on this thread instead of surfing… go figure.
Yes - what a breath of fresh air from the California scientists.

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Nickerless Tuesday, 28 Sep 2021 at 12:28pm

I heard a story in remote s.a about a bloke who was a shark fisherman who was gutting sharks in a bay close to where a boy was attacked and killed by a white pointer. Anecdotally perhaps the shark entrails to deter sharks might not work. Living in South aus I've always had sharks on my mind surfing. I'd say it cuts my sessions short most times I'm out by myself. It's on my mind but it's something I've decided to live with. They are there, they are scary but it is what it is right? Just go surf a wave pool or something like that if it bothers you.. leave the sharks alone

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Ray Shirlaw Tuesday, 28 Sep 2021 at 4:14pm

Sounds like the incident at Point Sinclair where huge GWS live in abundance. Sharks are high on the menu of other sharks so theyre unlikely to be deterred by shark entrails. Its rotten shark meat that has a proven deterrent effect. Yeh,leave'em alone& just have short sessions. Shit waves anyway compared to other pointer hotspots in Oz

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Nickerless Wednesday, 29 Sep 2021 at 2:32pm

Yeah you know the one.. yeahp s.a is not worth the effort to come to from the east coast that is for sure , too many sharks and not enough surf

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freeride76 Tuesday, 28 Sep 2021 at 2:35pm

Crocodiles make an interesting comparison.

They are intensively managed in urban areas.

Any crocs found in certain zones are removed.

The Active Removal Zone consists of four areas as can be seen on Maps 2 and 3: Northern Territory Active Removal Zones for Crocodile Management.
• Darwin Active Removal Zone - Darwin harbour, Darwin city, Palmerston and the rural area.
• Katherine Active Removal Zone – Along the Katherine River from the Nitmiluk National Park boundary
past the Katherine Township, to the junction of the Katherine River and Vampire Creek.
• Borroloola Active Removal Zone - A 13 kilometre section of the McArthur River adjacent the Borroloola Township.
• Nhulunbuy Active Removal Zone – The town lagoon area and sewerage ponds.

In QLD any crocs found south of Gladstone are shot.
Correct, shot.

So crocs are intensively managed, one of the most intensively managed predators around, despite living mostly in wilderness.

As far as the comparison to cars and car safety goes.

15 billion was just spent upgrading the Pacific Highway to reduce the risk of fatal car crashes.
There are seatbelts, cars are constantly upgraded as far as safety equipment goes.

I'm not sure what point is being made when someone compares shark attacks to car crashes and implies they are somehow similar.

We reduced the risk of car crash and as shark numbers grow and the risk of attack grows, doesn't it make sense to try and reduce the risk of shark attack?

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tango Wednesday, 29 Sep 2021 at 1:04pm

I'm not suggesting that car crashes and shark attacks are similar, but I am trying to point out that our approach to dealing with their risk is different.

We have a very different set of metrics we can use to assess risk between both - the data related to vehicles is extensive compared to the relatively wafer-thin data available on humans/the water/sharks. I agree with your Pacific Hwy point, but the scorched earth approach many people seem to take with sharks could be likened to clearing 50m either side of every road to remove large trees, or making it illegal to drive any car older than 2010. I think unnecessary injury and death in any form is a tragedy, but I also think we need to keep clear heads about the cumulative impact of all the adjustments people make to the natural world to make it best for humans.

While I'm fully shark-alert in the water myself, some may say verging on paranoid, I've seen too many in the water to be able to out it to the back of my mind. I agree that risks should reduced where possible and reasonable. But I sincerely think the sense of risk underpinning our collective approach to shark attack is completely out of proportion to the actual risk it poses. Shark attacks are so visceral as it's one of the rare incidents where you can still be eaten alive. Now there's a rabbit hole.

Must say I was actually quite amazed with you one day at Broken many years ago when Neil and I had spent 20 minutes paddling against the current to the top of the line on our own one arvo, only to be sprung by a big bronzie 5 yards in front of us when we were 10 yards from the takeoff...the bastard....anyway, we rode the whitewater in to the corner where you were surfing the beachy solo and leggy-free to tell you, but you shrugged and stayed out. There was no way I was staying in the water.

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freeride76 Wednesday, 29 Sep 2021 at 1:16pm

I disagree that it's a "scorched earth approach" .

In fact it's proportionate or below compared to the risk, especially in dollar terms.

I'm a fan of the smart drum lines, I think that is our best bang for buck in terms of socially acceptable non-lethal methods that also give us valuable data.

But when the scientist claims the QLD shark control is not effective in keeping people safe, and uses spurious logic to back up that claim it comes across as advocacy.
."but there is enough evidence that shark nets are not actually helping us protect beach-goers, "
Thats just a nonsense.
Nets and drum lines are the most effective at preventing shark interactions, including attacks.

With migration to seaside regions booming, Dr Meynecke fears there will be more shark bites as increasing numbers of people take to the water.

"Statistically the chance of shark encounter increases," he said.

If his argument held, then why would NENSW, with far less population than SEQLD suffer such high rates of attack?

The science, and basic logic does not back up his statements at all.
In fact it's the opposite result if his argument had any predictive power.

Far as my risk goes, those days seemed more innocent.
I still don't consider a bronzey in clear water much of a risk.

The increase in white sharks has changed that equation.

I get out now.

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tango Wednesday, 29 Sep 2021 at 1:34pm

Fair points, but to be clear I wasn't saying that the current approach is scorched-earth, but I think there is definitely a view among some people that we should just get rid of sharks and that we are entitled to a risk-free surfing experience.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the full bottle on the latest science etc, and so I'm not sure on how much of an advocate he may have been attempting to be - what I was calling out was another (generalised) tendency that I see, which is for people to claim a cover-up etc when the science doesn't support their views. This plays out in everything controversial, such as climate and the jab, as noted in the journal article posted earlier.

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freeride76 Tuesday, 28 Sep 2021 at 2:41pm

From the QLD crocodile management plan.

Zone F
Atypical habitat zone

An ‘atypical habitat zone’ is suited to areas that are not typical habitat for crocodiles – e.g., beyond their typical southernmost extent. Areas in this zone include waterways south of the Boyne River. Any crocodile found in Zone F is automatically targeted for removal after a sighting has been confirmed, regardless of size or behaviour. This includes crocodiles in the Mary River.

Targeted for removal means shot and removed.

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Blowin Wednesday, 29 Sep 2021 at 1:34pm

."but there is enough evidence that shark nets are not actually helping us protect beach-goers,

Anyone falling for the routine that to question this scientist is to abandon science for superstition? Or can we agree that sometimes science is perverted for political, economic and moral reasons?

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tango Wednesday, 29 Sep 2021 at 1:39pm

All science should be scrutinised, no question there, and that's what the thrust of the science/advocacy journal article was about. There are myriad ways science can go off the rails all the way from design through interpretation and application, but that's what review processes are intended to protect against. There is a big difference, too, between scientific opinion and science.

By all means question the science, but I think it's a slippery slope where people shoot the messenger when the new isn't what they want to hear.

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hamishbro Saturday, 2 Oct 2021 at 6:33am

Just quickly. I think it’s less about blatant advocacy and more about the set of values and ideology that underpins informs one’s research or opining with the media. This is a public safety issue that is getting worse as well as an environment issue. Marine scientists are one group of experts to consult on this issue but not the only group. Of course they share values that are about protecting and promoting the natural environment as well as arguably a black armband view of humans and their impact on the natural world. It’s understandable. What isn’t is when these values are not explicitly stated and they are asked to give policy suggestions for what is a public health issue as well. Psychologists should be involved in this debate, such as trauma counsellors, public health experts, and communities affected and at risk should also strive to be included and heard in this debate. Most parents would love to have the safety statistics of the Gold Coast when it comes to shark attacks. Their program has been a resounding by success. I also note that baited drum lines tend to only kill sharks - there is far less by catch than with nets. Would be interesting to see trial results at Goldie beaches if nets were removed but drum lines retained.

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tango Monday, 4 Oct 2021 at 8:03am

I agree that everyone has a set of values that underpins their opinions, but I don't think that a person's values can influence their approach to science to anywhere near the same degree. Your values are your own, but if you do research - and it gets funded - you have to convince a whole lot of other people about whether it's a good thing to do.

Many scientists working on natural environment issues may well share values around protection, but I think it's a long bow to suggest that a "black armband" view drives it. I reckon you're right to suggest that the values underpinning their research need to be explicitly stated - they actually often are because their research has to align with explicit policy and/or management objectives. The system is designed to try and make that alignment front-and-centre and it works both ways: science needs to align with policy objectives and policy advice can only be provided (in principle) which is supported by research. I'm not saying this works all the time, but that's the underpinning of it.

I agree that others should be involved in the debate - it's like the current debate on the rona here in Vic where the length of lockdown has increased calls for more input to decisions than the predominant public health advice.

But if you think disclosure of values and ideology should apply to scientists, then it needs to apply to everyone else who wants a part in the issue. I'd like to see that, and I don't think it's as simple as you imply.

And a trial....that would be politically, err....brave.

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tubeshooter Wednesday, 29 Sep 2021 at 8:06pm

Meynecke was the guy who wanted to bring offshore shark feeding stations for divers , and research , and the tourist dollars to the Gold Coast back 2015.
"Dr Meynecke said it could take 2 to 3 years to attract enough sharks to a site on the Gold Coast before it could be set up as controlled shark feeding and research area"... https://www.goldcoastbulletin.com.au/lifestyle/pets-and-wildlife/marine-...

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simba Saturday, 2 Oct 2021 at 7:15am

what could go wrong......