Marine scientists and campaigners have spelt out a message of conservation for our humpback whales on a Gold Coast beach.
Surfboards donated by the local community including surf shop Gold Coast Surfboard Hire, were arranged to spell the words “Nets Out Now” on the beach at Burleigh Heads on the Gold Coast.
Following a series of whale entanglements in shark nets off the tourism hotspot, the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) and Humane Society International (HSI) are appealing to the Queensland government to remove the shark control nets and end shark culling.
In March, the Queensland government’s Scientific Working Group for shark control recommended the shark nets should be removed during whale migration. But the nets remain in place and four whales have been entangled already this season, including a mother and its calf.
AMCS scientist Dr Leonardo Guida said: “Humpback whale migrations happen like clockwork up and down the east coast of Australia every year. We know that whale entanglements are stressful for these majestic giants, and can be fatal unless they are quickly freed. Yet the nets still remain in place.
“Even if whales are successfully released, we can’t be sure of their fate because of the stress they experience. Whales must be allowed to freely migrate through Queensland waters.”
HSI marine biologist Lawrence Chlebeck said: “The Queensland government should act on the recommendations of its scientific working group immediately before any more whales are trapped.
“Human safety is paramount and there are a number of more effective, non-lethal alternative shark mitigation strategies available instead of shark nets. Nets are ineffective at keeping bathers safe but are really good at catching and drowning iconic and harmless wildlife like turtles, dolphins and endangered hammerhead sharks.
“Drones, non-lethal SMART drumlines and better education could instead be employed to protect swimmers. Drones have the added benefit of helping lifesavers prevent drownings, of which 21 were fatal last year on Queensland beaches. These measures are readily available and do not take a toll on marine wildlife.”
Another scientific report to the Government last year identified drone surveillance and SMART drumlines as suitable alternatives for nets at southern Queensland beaches.
Since 2001, 54 humpback whales have been caught in Gold Coast nets. Shark nets are also placed along the Sunshine coast, north of Brisbane.
 SLSQ’s Fifth Annual Coast Safe Report 2019 https://issuu.com/slsq/docs/coast_safe_report_2019
Blount, C et al (2019) Queensland Shark Control Program: Review of Alternative Approaches. Cardno. Self published, Australia.