Dolphin death sparks fresh call to ban Noosa nets
The suspected drowning this week of a dolphin caught in shark nets off Noosa Main Beach should sound the death knell of the shark net program.
That's the call from two marine conservationists upset by Queensland Department of Fisheries' "indiscriminate" shark culling program after the photo of the dead marine mammal was posted on Noosa social media attracting a strong anti-net reaction.
According to Action for Dolphins spokeswoman Hannah Tait state culling records show 60 dolphins have been caught and killed in Sunshine Coast shark nets and drumlines since 2001.
And Ms Tait said over that time 1366 marine animals have been caught on the Sunshine Coast with 1176 dying.
Her shark removal call has been backed up by Humane Society International marine biologist Lawrence Chlebeck who said there were better ways to protect swimmers which did not involve killing marine wildlife.
Both are advocating the greater use of aerial shark surveillance drones that are being trialled on the Sunshine Coast with considerable success.
"Something like a dolphin floating on the top of the water that's been caught and drowned, it's very emotive and it shows what's happening under the surface," Ms Tait said.
"I don't think people realise how many animals are caught, but an incident like this brings it to light.
"We've been in touch with advocacy groups around Noosa and there seems to be a general sentiment to remove the nets," she said.
Ms Tait said the drone trial results to date had proved promising.
"They've spotted multiple large sharks and evacuated a beach on two occasions so it seems to be going quite well," she said.
Mr Chlebeck said drones were "so much better than these passive fishing nets that just hang in the water" for protecting swimmers.
"Just last year we won a court case in the Great Barrier Reef to remove the lethal drum lines," he said.
"It was important to note that one of the arguments that we won the case on was that shark culling has no impact on swimmer safety.
"It's really just, in my opinion, a false sense of security," he said.
However he conceded it would take "a lot of political courage to take the nets out".
"People will say what if something happens when the nets are gone?" Mr Chlebeck said.
Member for Noosa Sandy Bolton confirmed the dolphin death through Queensland Fisheries.
"It was deeply saddening to lose a dolphin or any marine life in shark nets," she posted online.
Ms Bolton said the department received notification at 10.46am on Monday of a dolphin entrapment and a crew was sent immediately, but the animal was dead.
"The department advises that they are committed to minimising the impact of SCP nets and drumlines on non-target marine animals and all nets are fitted with dolphin alarms which aim to reduce entanglements," she said.
She said department records show no dolphins were caught in shark nets off Noosa last year.
Not all the Facebook posts supported the net removals.
"Better 10 dolphins dead than one human," wrote one commenter.