Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Mark Furner in front of a shark control contractor’s boat, as Queensland's shark control program continues to be the centre of political debate. Photo: Lyndon Mechielsen/The Australian.
Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Mark Furner in front of a shark control contractor’s boat, as Queensland's shark control program continues to be the centre of political debate. Photo: Lyndon Mechielsen/The Australian.

Is end to shark control standoff close?

PEOPLE are fed up with the "Mexican standoff" between the Queensland and Federal governments on shark control, an independent MP says.

North Queensland First leader Jason Costigan was asked about the issue on Sky News on Monday night.

"We need to have the drumlines and the shark nets back in our waters," the Whitsunday MP said during the television interview.

"They've got them on the Gold Coast.

"It's ridiculous.

"It's jeopardising public safety.

"Last year it was revealed that the backpacker market in Germany has collapsed in the Whitsundays and of course, the shark drama, it's still lingering out there and it's still a very delicate position.

"I worry about when we're going to have, not if, another shark attack."

Following the Sky News report, The Morning Bulletin contacted Mr Costigan and asked him to clarify his "back in our waters" comment.

"I'm talking about putting back the shark protection measures for beachgoers in central, north and far north Queensland," he said.

"So I'm talking about Tannum Sands, the Capricorn Coast, Mackay's northern beaches, Townsville's famous Strand and the northern beaches of Cairns.

"You know the dots on the map are well documented - you've actually got to be 100 in the shade not to have grown up with this stuff, or fresh off the boat.

"That's the area of focus for my party NQ First, and it's the area that's been left vulnerable by this Mexican standoff between Canberra and the State Government.

"And more and more people I speak to, are jack of it."

Since 1962, the Queensland shark control program has operated with only one death at beaches protected by shark drum lines.

Last September, the Federal Court dismissed a Queensland Department of Fisheries appeal and upheld an Administrative Appeals Tribunal decision that any shark caught must be tagged and released alive.

On the first day of the September school holidays, the Queensland Government was forced to halt its shark control program.

It removed 173 shark drumlines at 27 beaches within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park area.

Capricornia was the most affected region with only seven drumlines remaining from the original 53.

Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley, state LNP members and Capricornia MP Michelle Landry have all maintained that the State Government should heed the Federal Government's legal advice and return the drum lines to the water and resume the control program within the parameters of the court decision.

But Queensland Fisheries Minister Mark Furner has repeatedly provided an ­extensive list of reasons why it's not as simple as returning the lines to the water.

Back in November, The Morning Bulletin reported "a political war of words and blame game broke out and still hasn't ended."

So, more than two months on, what has changed?

The Bully put Mr Costigan's comments to ministers Furner and Ley, and Ms Landry, and also asked what the current state of play was on the issue.

The response from Ms Landry's office was "there's probably not a lot we can give in terms of an update".

Mr Furner would only say: "We are encouraged by the tone of the discussions with the Federal Government.

"We remain committed to the goal of having effective shark control measures within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park."

When asked if those discussions related to legislative change, Mr Furner said: "The conversations/negotiations are ongoing and we are not going to comment on them while that is the case."

A spokesman for Ms Ley said Queensland's Department of Agriculture and Fisheries had been working closely with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to restore a compliant shark control program inside the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

"Those discussions have been encouraging," he said.

"This remains the most effective and expedient way of resolving the issue."



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