Beachgoers would be given subsidies to buy their own electronic shark repellent devices and dozens of shark-detecting drones would comb the Queensland coast if green groups have their way.
The subsidies are part of a $37 million overhaul of Queensland’s controversial shark control program being urged by a coalition of anti-shark net crusaders as part of the state election campaign.
They have sent a detailed report to Fisheries Minister Mark Furner calling on Labor to adopt the plan to make beaches safer and provide a COVID recovery economic boost.
It follows last month’s fatal shark attack at shark-netted Greenmount beach and an incident this week where a drone was used to alert pro surfer Matt Wilkinson to a large shark stalking him at Ballina.
The plan, proposed by groups including the Australian Marine Conservation Society, Humane Society International and Sea Shepherd, is based on an independent review of shark control program alternatives commissioned last year by the Palaszczuk Government.
It involves replacing shark nets and drum lines on protected beaches with shark-proof ‘eco-barriers’ and drones.
In the report, conservationists argue that the current shark control program ‘provides no measurable benefit to human safety’, with 30 shark attacks on protected Queensland beaches – two of them fatal.
“We collectively wish to see Queensland beaches be as safe as possible, for people and wildlife,” they say in a letter to Mr Furner as part of the report.
“It is unlikely Queenslanders, Australians or international visitors will continue to accept beach safety standards that are 60 years old.”
The report says the new scheme would position Queensland as a ‘global leader’ in beach safety, boost eco-tourism and create jobs.
As well as drones and eco-barriers, the report urges Queensland to follow the lead of WA and introduce $200 rebates for personal electronic shark protection devices.
Anti-shark net campaigner Andre Borell, who is making a documentary called Envoy: Shark Cull, said the scheme’s operational costs would be cheaper than the current $4.3 million a year, although equipment would cost an estimated $33.4 million upfront.
“If it was purely about safety first, this would be a no-brainer, but this issue is a bit of a political football,” he said.
Originally published as EXCLUSIVE: The radical election plan to stop shark attacks