Queensland’s tourism industry representatives have released statement condoning any calls for change to the Great Barrier Reef protection legislation to allow for lethal shark control measures.
The statement argued the any move would be an “unnecessary step” and could impact the GBR’s world heritage status.
The call comes after bickering by state and federal governments over the best way to control sharks around the popular Whitsunday Islands and other destinations after recent shark bites.
Rather than cull sharks in the waters by using drum lines, the statement called on the government to conduct more research into shark behavior and develop innovative management tools that are informed by science. Methods for prevention and control include aerial shark spotters, netted swimming areas, particularly around Stradbroke Island, and SMART drum lines.
The tourism board also expressed frustration regarding “unnecessarily alarming publicity” about lethal shark control measures had the potential to harm the tourism sector.
Shark attacks have been at the center of a heating argument between state and federal governments in Australia. Queensland recently lost a federal court battle in an attempt to be allowed to use baited hooks to catch and kill sharks in the reef. Instead the federal government ruled that state fisheries staff to catch and release.
After that ruling, the Queensland government removed drum lines from the marine park immediately but with the recent shark bites, the retoric has only heated back up.
“Australia’s reputation as a safe destination is a critical competitive advantage for our destination,” the statement says. “This reputation is not built on a claim that accidents cannot happen here but on an implied assurance we have in place appropriate precautionary measures for all circumstances and that we respond compassionately and professionally to any incident.
“We accept that visiting any natural environment and any interaction with wildlife requires appropriate awareness for operators and visitors, based on accurate information. It also calls for behavioural guidelines and adequate precautions to be put in place.
“Unfortunately, in the context of the recent incidents involving sharks in the Whitsundays, we have a very limited understanding of the scientific facts that might explain changes to shark behaviour or movements in the different locations visited by tourism operators across the Great Barrier Reef.
“Long-term solutions will require a clearer understanding of shark movements and detailed analysis of the recent incidents.
“Guided by new scientific evidence, the industry is keen to work with government to implement improved and innovative management tools that can achieve better outcomes.”