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Harvard University

Publication Date

Fall 2015

Program Name

Australia: Rainforest, Reef, and Cultural Ecology

Abstract

Since 1962, the Queensland government has employed a shark control program consisting of shark nets and drum lines off the coast of popular beaches. This program is intended to protect beachgoers from shark interactions by fishing down local shark populations, reasoning that the fewer “large sharks that are present, all things being equal, the less chance of an attack occurring” (McPhee, 2012). In the current study, trends in Queensland Shark Control Program (QSCP) catch between 1962-2014 are examined for select threatened shark species; namely, Carcharodon carcharias, Carcharias taurus, and Sphyrna spp. For all focus species, significant and consistent temporal declines in catch rates were observed since the 1970s. Overall, a majority of sharks were caught on nets rather than drum lines. Most of these individuals were juveniles, based on recorded length frequencies. Monthly catch trends for each species varied, reflecting differences in their biology. The present study also provides information on change in fishing effort of the QSCP since 1962, and how effort related to catch rates of the focus species at each location under the shark control program. The results of this study indicate that the Queensland Shark Control Program may have a serious negative impact on local populations of threatened shark species. These findings corroborate past research on shark control programs, and provide further support for the implementation of non-lethal shark deterrents.

Disciplines

Aquaculture and Fisheries | Policy Design, Analysis, and Evaluation | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration

 

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