Australia Is Fighting Over Whether or Not to Kill 'Man-Eating' Sharks

Australia is in the midst of a battle over whether to cull "man-eating" sharks on the Great Barrier Reef as one of its states argues for a change in federal law so that it can continue the practice.

In a win for wildlife campaigners, the government of the state of Queensland—located in the northeast of the country—lost a federal court appeal Wednesday in which it was fighting for the right to continue implementing a controversial shark management program, The Guardian reported.

This program involved the deployment of nets and drum lines—a type of unmanned aquatic trap—to catch and kill sharks representing 19 different species, in an attempt to protect swimmers.

Critics of the program say there is no scientific evidence that the "lethal component" of the program reduces the risk of unprovoked shark attacks on humans. Furthermore, they say these methods lead to the unnecessary deaths of large numbers of sharks, harming the marine ecosystem.

Earlier this year, animal rights group the Humane Society won a case against the Queensland government which forced it to make several changes to the program.

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal said that euthanasia would only be allowed as a last resort in certain circumstances, "specifically when a shark is unlikely to survive release due to its condition or an injury, or which cannot be safely removed alive due to weather conditions or hooking location."

"We are satisfied that the euthanasia of any species of sharks... caught on drum lines should be a last resort and not occur as a matter of practice," the tribunal said, according to The Brisbane Times.

The Queensland government appealed the verdict of the tribunal, but it has now lost its appeal meaning it can only continue the program in a manner that avoids the killing of sharks "to the greatest extent possible," the Australian Associated Press reported.

However, on Thursday, the state government demanded that the law be changed so that the culling of sharks could continue in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

"We fought this in the courts because we simply believe that human life must be prioritised over the lives of sharks," Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told the Australian parliament today. "The decision effectively means that the program would become a catch and release program within the marine park."

Mark Furner, the state's agriculture minister, also urged the government to allow the culling of "man-eating" sharks to continue.

The state tourism minister, Kate Jones, called on Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to intervene in the case.

"I'm sure the prime minister does not want to have blood on his hands through this decision in relation to the federal act," Jones told reporters on Wednesday.

shark drum line
Shark caught on the baited hook of a drum line trap. HSI/AMCS/N McLachlan