Queensland's Catch-Alert Drumline Trials: Redundant

2023-10-07 10:06 PM by Envoy: Shark Cull–  4m read

In 2019, the Queensland Government were forced to adopt a catch-and-release shark control program within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP), replacing their culling program. Humane Society International (Australia) Inc and Department of Agriculture & Fisheries (Qld) [2019] AATA 617 (2 April 2019) found that:

"The lethal component of the SCP does not reduce the risk of unprovoked shark interactions. The scientific evidence before us is overwhelming in this regard."

...and ordered that the program must be operated non-lethally. Between 2019-2022, the Queensland Government attempted to comply by simply checking traditional catch-and-kill drumlines more frequently (every 24 hours rather than 48). After this approach badly failed to comply with the AAT requirements, a small number of catch-alert drumlines were finally rolled out in 2022, to facilitate faster release of animals. Most drumlines continue to be traditional catch-and-kill drumlines, checked every 24 hours.

Queensland's Reluctance to Move Beyond Catch-Alert Drumline Trials

The Queensland Shark Control Program Scientific Working Group convened on 3 May 2023 to review the results of the Queensland Shark Control Program catch-alert drumline trial conducted between January 2022 and January 2023. Despite the trial ending in January 2023, the Queensland government only made the results and the Scientific Working Group's recommendations publicly available on 3 October 2023. Beyond the frustration about the delay in public notification of trial results is the added disappointment of the trial's continuation into Mackay and Cairns regions until 2025.

Catch-and-kill/traditional drumlines and catch-alert drumlines both use baited hooks, but there are notable distinctions. Traditional drumlines are deployed 24 hours a day and checked only on 'servicing' days. In contrast, catch-alert drumlines come equipped with alert units that utilise satellite technology to notify a contractor when an animal is caught, aiming to release an animal within approximately an hour, weather permitting. Catch-alert drumlines are deployed only during daylight hours.

Queensland's Trial Results are no surprise

The Queensland catch-alert drumline trial results conducted between 24 January 2022 and 23 January 2023 on the Capricorn Coast yield no substantial insight beyond what has already been firmly established by trials conducted by New South Wales and others. In fact, New South Wales has been using catch-alert drumlines for a decade because catch-alert drumlines have been shown to have a higher likelihood of animals being released alive than traditional drumlines.

The persistence of Queensland in conducting trials for this well-proven technology raises valid concerns. Despite the adoption of catch-alert drumlines by other regions, why does Queensland continue to engage in trials when the technology has already been tested?

Delayed Public Disclosure

The delayed public disclosure of the catch-alert trial results by Queensland has fuelled disappointment and frustration among many. The trial officially concluded on 23 January 2023, but the information was only made public on 3 October 2023. This prolonged silence raises questions about transparency, accountability, and the need for timely information dissemination, especially concerning matters of environmental conservation and public interest.

Why has it taken months for the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries to release the trial findings? This delay has hindered the ability of the public to engage in informed discussions and contribute to the decision-making process.

Transparency and Accountability

Transparency and accountability should be paramount in public interest and environmental conservation. The delayed release of vital information concerning the trial undermines these principles and fosters a sense of mistrust and scepticism among the public and environmental organisations.

Government agencies responsible for environmental management and conservation must maintain open lines of communication with the public. Prompt disclosure of trial results, especially concerning wildlife conservation, allows for more robust public discourse and informed decision-making.


Queensland's ongoing trials of catch-alert drumlines emphasise a critical point: these trials are unnecessary. The insistence on further testing raises questions about the justification for these efforts. It underscores the need for transparency and accountability in environmental conservation decisions and calls for re-evaluating the continued trials when proven alternatives are available. Ultimately, the focus should be on adopting effective and humane methods for beach safety without unnecessary delays or redundant testing to ensure the preservation of marine ecosystems.

Sign our petition and help stop marine wildlife's suffering and death.

Our organisation opposes catching or killing sharks for beach safety. Shark nets and all types of drumlines result in marine wildlife's inevitable suffering and death.

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