Sea Shepherd Australia has engaged a fourth-year evolutionary biology student from Harvard University to assist with analysing reams of information secured as part of a Freedom of Information request regarding the catch data associated with the Queensland Shark Control Program.
Carolyn Pushaw, who is studying in Australia with the School for International Training, contacted Sea Shepherd around two months ago to indicate her interest in helping with the Apex Harmony Campaign. For the past three weeks, she has been conducting a research project to assist the shark campaign coordinators in understanding trends and forecasts in relation to the Queensland Shark Control Program.
“It is really surprising to analyse the Queensland Shark Control Program catch data. Catches of sharks in the program have declined so dramatically in the past few decades,” Carolyn said.
“The data supports our hypothesis that shark nets and drum lines are playing a major role in fishing threatened shark species.”
Natalie Banks, National Shark Campaign Coordinator for Sea Shepherd Australia stated that Carolyn has generated fresh motivation into the campaign by providing further scientific evidence that drum lines and shark nets should be removed and non-lethal technologies embraced.
“Time and again we have science advising governments that lethal shark nets and drum lines are causing drastic losses of marine life and therefore having a major impact on the marine environment,” Natalie said.
“But the Queensland Government is putting its head in the sand, evidenced by a new proposal currently out for public submission, to increase the number of drum lines currently within the Great Barrier Reef, by 65; taking the total to 213.”
The additional research assistance comes after Sea Shepherd released figures showing over 84,800 marine animals had been caught in the drum lines and shark nets since 1962, many which are vulnerable, endangered and critically endangered species. It also comes at a time when Sea Shepherd has issued a vote of no confidence in Queensland authorities due to various administrative hold ups and errors.
“I think it’s important to recognise that Sea Shepherd isn’t just making up problems here. We have a serious situation that impacts important shark species, which are being wiped out by a program using outdated methods – and which has little scientific evidence proving that it in fact reduces shark encounters,” Carolyn said.
“Given sharks maintain healthy reefs, the removal of drum lines and shark nets that only provide a false sense of security, in favour of sustainable, non-lethal shark deterrent methods should be part of the Great Barrier Reef’s management plan. Sharks have already faced severe declines worldwide, and without sharks we have a depleted reef system and a sick ocean.”
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