In September 2019, EDO secured a win in the Federal Court to stop the Queensland Government culling sharks in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Despite media hyperbole playing on people’s fear of sharks, our lawyers advanced an evidence based, and ultimately successful, defence of these iconic animals and the ecosystems they support.

The case  questionedthe use of baited drumlines to catch and kill 19 species of shark, in the World Heritage listed site. Since July 2016, at least 432 animals had drowned on the drumlines and at least 91 sharks were found alive and then shot dead by a contractor employed by the Queensland Government.

Acting for client Humane Society International – Australia (HSI), EDO first took the case to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), challenging the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s decision to permit the State to continue its lethal control program for another 10 years. 

The AAT heard evidence from eminent shark experts on the effectiveness of killing the sharks and the impact of the lethal program on the tiger shark population and the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem as a whole.  

In April 2019, the AAT found that the lethal component of the Shark Control Program does not reduce the risk to swimmers from sharks on the Great Barrier Reef But, while ineffective at protecting swimmers, it found that the impact of the program on tiger sharks and the Reef ecosystem is significant and that the killing of sharks caught on a drumline “should be a last resort, and not occur as a matter of practice”.

The AAT also applied the precautionary principle in refusing to permit the lethal aspect of the program on the basis of the importance of the Reef, the “substantial stress” the Reef ecosystem is under, the significant decrease in tiger shark populations and the “fact that trophic cascade may occur with the reduction in a population of an apex predator”.

The Queensland Government appealed the decision of the AAT.  In September 2019, the Federal Court upheld the decision on every ground.

The Queensland Government can continue to run its Shark Control Program in accordance with the conditions imposed by the AAT, including to tag, release and relocate sharks caught on drumlines, to trial and implement SMART drumlines and to conduct scientific research into alternative non-lethal measures.  .

In October 2019, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority issued a new permit to the Queensland government reflecting these conditions.

EDO New South Wales is the legal entity acting in this case. EDO NSW began trading as EDO Ltd in September 2019.