Cleveland man Paul Saffigna plans campaign for replacement of shark drumlines after detailing North Stradbroke whale entanglement

CLEVELAND resident and scientist Paul Saffigna is planning a grassroots campaign to lobby the government for the replacement of shark drumlines during whale migration season.

DISTRESSING: Cleveland scientist Paul Saffigna watched on as a whale tried to free itself from a shark hook off North Stradbroke Island. Photo: Jodi Graff

DISTRESSING: Cleveland scientist Paul Saffigna watched on as a whale tried to free itself from a shark hook off North Stradbroke Island. Photo: Jodi Graff

It comes after two whales were caught in control devices off North Stradbroke Island within four days of each other last week.

Dr Saffigna saw the second entanglement and described the incident as distressing and barbaric.

He watched the whale thrashing and struggling for life for more than three hours. "I was looking at it, hardly able to believe my eyes," Dr Saffigna said. "I was really quite distressed by the whole thing."

He said the whale was caught off Main Beach and dragged the drumline gear, including one of the buoys, to east of Frenchmans Bay before it was intercepted by three rescue teams.

Dr Saffigna was near Point Lookout Surf Life Saving Club about 2.15pm when he first noticed the whale. He feared it had died when it stopped moving at times along the way. The Marine Animal Rescue Team released the whale at dusk.

Sea Shepherd said the shark hook and chain were still attached when the whale was released.

Dr Saffigna said he considered it his duty to stop whale entanglements and would form a lobby group to get drumline hooks and nets replaced during breeding season.

Replacement options could include gear which was already being used, like the NSW government's SMART drumlines which sent out an alert when an animal was caught or sonar pingers that drove sharks and whales away.

"We want to get people active to contact whoever they need to contact to get something happening," he said. "We will push really hard because the state government elections are coming up. We don't want to be around forever, we just want to get the job done."

The group would focus on getting drumlines replaced off Stradbroke and the Gold Coast, as Dr Saffigna believed they were the main areas where whales were trapped.

A fisheries department spokesman said only six whales had been entangled this year and all were released.

The program was under constant review to reduce bycatch.

"The shark control program has been in place since 1962," the spokesman said.

"In that time there has only ever been one fatality at a beach with program equipment.

"The Queensland government has committed $1 million a year to research and trial shark control alternatives that may be appropriate for Queensland, especially during the migration season."

Sea Shepherd spokesman Jonathan Clark said the government should replace nets with barriers at key locations in the north or use drones.

Dr Saffigna would look at alternatives to ensure people were protected from sharks.