Debate continues to rage across Australia after 33-year-old Daniel Christidis was fatally mauled by a shark in Queensland’s Cid Harbour on Monday.
While some say culling sharks is the only way to protect people from attacks, others believe there are better ways to protect both sharks and humans.
Christidis was swimming off a charter boat in the iconic Whitsundays tourist hotspot when he was attacked. Despite being rushed to Mackay Hospital, he didn’t survive. He suffered major blood loss and was resuscitated twice, but died as a result of his injuries. His death came six weeks after two others were attacked in a similar area.
On September 20, 46-year-old Tasmanian woman Justine Barwick was bitten while snorkelling in Cid Harbour. She received serious injuries and underwent an 18-hour surgery to save her mauled leg.
Less than 24 hours later, Melbourne schoolgirl Hannah Papps was attacked when swimming in a nearby area. She was also rushed to hospital and treated for serious leg injuries. Following those two attacks, shark control equipment was temporarily placed in Cid Harbour and six potentially dangerous sharks were removed from waters.
The drumlines helped capture six large sharks that measured between 1.2 metres and 3.7m, but were removed a week following the first attack.
Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner said at the time that removing the large sharks had made the area safer and that publicity surrounding their actions had made people more conscious of their well-being in the water. He added that the Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol would remain onsite with support from other state government agencies to provide an at-sea advisory program to maintain the heightened level of awareness around shark safety.
“It is not practical to permanently operate shark control equipment at this location as it is too far from the mainland to allow quick deployment, access and servicing, or rapid removal in bad weather,” Furner said in September.
He also said culling would not fix the problem – even after the death of Christidis.
“There is no science to support calls for an indiscriminate shark cull,” Furner told Starts at 60. “There would also be no guarantees of swimmer safety if a shark cull was undertaken.
“There is always, and there will always be, sharks in the oceans. The best advice we have is don’t swim in Cid Harbour.”
Permanent signs re-enforcing that no one should swim in Cid Harbour under any circumstances will be installed by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries over the next few weeks, while temporary signs will be erected by the weekend.
“Neither the local mayor, Andrew Willcox, marine authorities nor the local tourism operators want to see drumlines redeployed,” Tourism Minister Kate Jones added in a statement. “They want re-enforced messaging and that’s what we are doing. Water police are on the harbour re-enforcing that message again.”
Non-profit marine wildlife conservation organisation Sea Shepherd supported the approach.
“Sea Shepherd Australia supports the current approach in deploying signage and notices to places where it is clearly unsafe to swim,” it said in a statement. “This is a far better approach both for safety and tourism and is a well-established method when it comes to stingers and crocodiles.
Still, there are many in politics who think more needs to be done. LNP Member for the Queensland seat of Hinkler Keith Pitt said he wants sharks to be culled in the region.
“The time for talking is over,” he wrote on Facebook. “It’s time to cull sharks to save lives, and save jobs.”
It has also seen support from Katter’s Australian Party Queensland leader Robbie Katter.
“We are calling for an urgent review of the state’s shark control program after the tragic death of a man who was paddle boarding at Cid Harbour earlier this week,” he said on Facebook. “Drum lines were installed in this area after two shark attacks only months ago, only to have been removed and the State Government has refused so far to return them.
“This is appalling – protecting people from being attacked by apex predators like sharks and crocs is the kind of thing governments need to get right.”
On Friday, Furner and Jones are set to meet local authorities, marine experts and tourism industry officials to get advice from experts and focus on the science to inform decisions.
“We want to support our tourism industry and we have some of the foremost marine science and fisheries experts in the world here in Queensland,” Furner said in a statement. “This is about getting the key local stakeholders in the same room to talk about what’s best for locals and visitors.”
Meanwhile, Jones said it was important to work collaboratively to find the best long-term solution and that it was important experts and locals have a say in how the issue is tackled.