The State Government has released its first update on the crocodile management program, which includes surveying waterways in croc country to determine their numbers.
Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said it was the most comprehensive survey of Queensland’s estuarine crocodile population in over a decade.
“The overall aim of the crocodile monitoring program is to determine the size, distributions and densities of estuarine crocodile population in different waterways,” Ms Enoch said.
“At the end of the program, the information collected will be analysed to determine how crocodile populations vary between different areas, and what changes have occurred over time.”
Specially trained wildlife officers from the Department of Environment and Science surveyed more than 2000km of waterways during 2017, the first year of the three-year crocodile monitoring program.
This work involved night time vessel-based surveys in waterways from Gladstone to Cape York Peninsula and the adjoining Gulf of Carpentaria, as well as daytime helicopter surveys of coastal waterways from the Hinchinbrook Channel to the Daintree River.
Ms Enoch said night and daytime surveys were also carried out in six waterways south of Rockhampton, all of which were outside normal crocodile habitat. No crocodiles were observed in these streams.
She said the department removed 84 problem crocs last year, mainly from waterways between Townsville and Port Douglas.
“On top of this important work to manage Queensland’s crocodiles, our wildlife officers also assisted with investigations into the unlawful deaths of eight crocs, and three people were prosecuted for the illegal take of crocodiles in 2017.
“The Government is confident that Queensland’s approach to crocodile management is sound.”
The monitoring program is expected to conclude in late 2019 and a detailed report will be prepared in 2020.
But Hill MP Shane Knuth said the report reaffirmed that there is a croc issue in North Queensland and said the government needed to ‘get real’ on crocodile management.
“The Government is reluctant to make the tough decisions because keeping southern votes is more important to them than protecting the life and livelihood of North Queenslanders.
He said the update showed a spike in the number of crocodile sightings, jumping to 684 in 2017 compared to 378 in 2016 and just 176 in 2010.
“This is triple the sightings reported from seven years ago and an 80% increase in sightings from 2016,’’ he said.
“Those are extraordinary numbers and any sane person would argue it represents a large increase in crocodile numbers. Most people I speak to in the region tell me they don’t even bother reporting sightings anymore as nothing gets done, so that increase is only the tip of the iceberg.’’
Mr Knuth said more needed to be done to control saltwater crocodiles.
“When we have tourism bodies such as TTNQ and TPDD warning of the effects on the tourism industry because of increased activity of crocodiles and the Government’s own report showing staggering increases in sightings, it begs the question – why isn’t the Government acting?
“We shouldn’t accept the increasing number of beach closures or beach sightings, as crocs shouldn’t be there in the first place. A zero tolerance policy regarding crocodiles on our beaches and in surrounding waterways, will drastically reduce the threat and allow our life savers to use this technology more effectively in patrolling stretches of beach not normally patrolled.’’