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Tim Mulherin acts on a whale of an idea for Queensland

Minister for Primary Industries, Fisheries and Rural and Regional Queensland

The Honourable Tim Mulherin

06/08/2010

Whale pingers installed to reduce entanglements

New acoustic alarms, or pingers as they are commonly known, to help reduce whale entanglements are being fitted on shark nets from Mackay to the Gold Coast this week.

Minister for Primary Industries, Fisheries and Rural and Regional Queensland Tim Mulherin said the pingers were designed to alert whales to the location of shark nets to help them avoid entanglement.

"Last migration season six whales were caught in shark nets on the Gold Coast, " Mr Mulherin said.

"That is a relatively small number considering there are up to 13,000 whales migrating back to southern waters, but still six too many.

"While all of these animals were successfully released by our Marine Animal Release Teams, this type of operation is expensive and can be taxing on our officers - prevention is certainly a better option.

"Obviously any preventative measures we can take, such as these new pingers, to reduce entanglements is better than mounting a release effort."

Mr Mulherin said 90 pingers in total would be fitted to nets from Mackay to the Gold Coast with 300 manufactured in total.

"The pingers will be in place from now until the end of November which is the time when whales are making their southern migration," Mr Mulherin said.

"The pingers were recently tested in the water for 45 days to check their durability and showed that they can last in our ocean environment.

"Generally the pingers will only be on nets for 21 days at a time and will be changed over when the nets are changed."

Mr Mulherin said the alarms had been developed by a Queensland-based specialist acoustic device manufacturer and give off a louder noise for a longer listening period making it easier for whales to hear.

"It is important to recognise that these alarms are designed to alert whales to the presence of nets - they are not designed to scare them away from the equipment," Mr Mulherin said.

"With 13,000 whales expected to pass along the Queensland coast this whale migration season, the Bligh Government is committed to minimising the impacts of its shark control program on non-target species such as whales.

"As I announced last month we are also trialling the use of surfcams for eight Gold Coast beaches through the coastal watch system to help confirm entanglements.

"This system allows officers to remotely access the surfcams, generally used by the public to check surf conditions, and zoom in on nets to confirm if an animal is caught.

"Using this system will allow us to activate a release team for confirmed entanglements only rather than for false alarms."

Fisheries Queensland Shark Control Program Manager Tony Ham said that in total 90 pingers would be in the water at any one time - three on each net from Mackay to the Gold Coast.

"The pingers will be in place in time for the second half of the whale season when young whales are more likely to come closer to shore and become entangled.

"After that the pingers will be fitted to the nets from May 1 to November 30 each year."

To report whale entanglements call the shark control hotline on 1800 806 891.