Conservationists have won a legal bid to end the killing of sharks caught on drum lines.

Queensland’s Administrative Appeals Tribunal has ordered the state’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries can no longer shoot dead 19 species in protected areas between central and north Queensland.

The decision comes after Humane Society International (HSI) launched a challenge to Queensland’s shark control program run earlier this year.

Tribunal deputy president Ian Hanger and senior member Adria Poljak declared that sharks captured alive must be released, and can only be killed on “welfare grounds” – “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”.

“It is plain from the evidence given in these proceedings that Queensland's lethal shark culling program is out of step with national and international developments,” the judgment said.

The tribunal says there is “overwhelming” evidence that killing sharks does nothing to reduce the risk of unprovoked attacks.

It also ruled that the 173 drum lines strung inside the Great Barrier Reef marine park must be checked more frequently.

The tribunal said tiger, bull and white sharks must be tagged and relocated, not slaughtered.

The judgment also ordered trials of smart drum lines as soon as possible, and called for further research into tiger shark populations and alternative non-lethal measures.