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Culling Sharks On The Great Barrier Reef Has Come To An End

A Tribunal has put an end to Queensland's shark culling in the Great Barrier reef.

Earlier this week, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) ordered fundamental changes to Queensland's drumlines program, putting an end to the culling of species on the Great Barrier Reef.

The Queensland Government's Department of Agriculture and Fisheries was ordered by the AAT to stop shark culling, which has been a fundamental element of the state's Shark Control Program since it was first established in 1962.

The express purpose of the Shark Control Program is to "reduce the possibility of shark attacks on humans in coastal waters" but the AAT ruled that killing sharks has no proven success in preventing unprovoked human-shark interactions in the sea.

The program currently identifies a list of 19 target species of sharks that are to be euthanised when caught on drumlines off Queensland's coast but the AAT have ordered the removal of this list, denying the state the right to kill animals that are caught.

The Queensland Government's shark-culling scheme has been ordered to end. Source: Getty.

The AAT have also ruled that the monitoring of the drumlines needs to be increased in frequency, to avoid shark deaths. While some of the larger species of sharks such as tiger sharks can survive for several days after being caught on drumlines, many of the smaller species tend to thrash around and can die quickly after being hooked.

The Queensland Government have been instructed to research non-lethal methods of shark control.

The AAT ruling represents a victory for the Humane Society International, which introduced their campaign to end the lethal program to the court in mid-2017.

Lawrence Chlebeck, marine campaigner at Humane Society International, told 10 Daily that the program was being conducted on the misled basis that the culling was protecting swimmers.

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"One of the big reasons why the AAT ruled in our favour was that our strongest tenant was drumlines and killing sharks do not increase sharks and human interactions," Chlebeck said.

Chlebeck noted that Queensland's insistence on numbers that showed Queensland beaches protected by the drumlines had never seen a fatality was driven by a statistical oversight.

"If you pull that statistic apart, you'll find a minority of beaches are protected and there's less than one fatality a year in Queensland [from shark attack] ... We would say there's hardly ever been a fatality anywhere," he said.

According to the International Shark Attack File produced by Florida Museum, Australia experiences two fatalities from shark attack annually and historically these fatalities have been concentrated to New South Wales, Western Australia, and Queensland.

Queensland's Shark Control Program has proved lethal for sharks, however.

The 2017 catch statistics show 515 sharks in total were caught along the coast over the course of the year. Among these were 202 tiger sharks, 92 bull sharks, and five great white sharks.

Tiger sharks are one of the species that can be deadly to humans. (Image AAP)

Only 20 of these sharks were released alive and the great majority died whilst caught on the hook.

In addition to this, 22 of the shark species caught are listed as vulnerable or threatened according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

While unprovoked human interactions with sharks are rare, a spate of attacks in The Whitsunday Islands late last year that resulted in the death of a 33-year-old Victorian man, peaked public fear and government interest in the problem.

However, Chlebeck maintains that the tragic maulings could not have been prevented by culling "one or two sharks".

Instead, Humane Society International are now advocating for the use of non-invasive technologies and education such as drone routines, alert systems, and informing swimmers more thoroughly of dangerous swimming areas.

Chlebeck is hopeful that putting an end to shark culling will prove beneficial to the ocean environment and states that some of the 19 shark species on the cull list have seen a "major decline" in numbers.

"Sharks are absolutely integral to the health of the reef," Chlebeck said.