SHARK ME­NACE

$350,000 TO STUDY SHARK RAIDS ON CATCHES

South Western Times - - Front Page - Shan­non Ver­ha­gen

Many fish­ers are fa­mil­iar with the dis­ap­point­ing feel­ing of hook­ing a de­cent fish, only to have the line sud­denly drag and then slacken, and be forced to reel in half a fish — or even just its head.

“Bite-offs” are a well-known oc­cur­rence off the WA coast, and ev­ery­one knows the cul­prit — sharks.

And with anec­do­tal ev­i­dence sug­gest­ing up to 70 per cent of fish hooked are get­ting nicked be­fore they’ve been landed, the State Gov­ern­ment is throw­ing more than $350,000 at it through the Recre­ational Fish­ing Ini­tia­tives Fund to try to find a so­lu­tion.

A Bun­bury Fish­ing Club com­mit­tee mem­ber knows the feel­ing all too well.

“We were up on a trip at the Abrol­hos last year and two of us caught dhu­fish and they got bit­ten in half by 4m-5m bronze whalers on the way up,” Luke Mott said.

Mr Mott also re­called hav­ing a break­sea cod on the line off the Bun­bury coast a cou­ple of years back, only to have a 3.5m tiger shark take the lion’s share just be­fore it broke the sur­face.

He said while it was more com­mon up north, it still hap­pened down south and a lot of lo­cal fish­ers had sto­ries about it.

As for the types of fish they went for, Mr Mott laughed as he said it was “nor­mally the good eat­ing ones”.

Bus­sel­ton fish­er­man Jesse Gib­son said over the past 10 years he had no­ticed an in­crease in the shark pop­u­la­tion, par­tic­u­larly up north on the Pil­bara and Gas­coyne coasts, where a lot of South

West fish­ers spent their hol­i­days. But he said down south it was not un­com­mon to have bronze whalers or mako sharks tak­ing your haul as well.

“It’s a pain, re­ally,” Mr Gib­son said.

The De­part­ment of Pri­mary In­dus­tries and Re­gional Devel­op­ment study will in­clude at-sea test­ing of de­ter­rent de­vices — in­clud­ing am­pli­fied sound and mag­nets close to hooks — and a team from Edith Cowan Univer­sity is can­vass­ing char­ter boat op­er­a­tors and fish­ers.

Both fish­er­men men­tioned mak­ing changes to the com­mer­cial shark fish­ing in­dus­try as a pos­si­ble so­lu­tion.

Mr Gib­son said the fo­cus needed to shift from white sharks to in­clude other species as well and it would be in­ter­est­ing to see what so­lu­tions they came up with.

“They need to get peo­ple who have fished the wa­ter for x amount of years hav­ing an in­put and be­ing vig­or­ously in­volved,” he said.

“You can watch as many doc­u­men­taries as you like, but you need that ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing out there.”

Pic­ture: Shan­non Ver­ha­gen

Bun­bury fish­ing fam­ily Kaidence Mott, 11, Luke Mott and Noah Mott, 6, love throw­ing a line in, but not when a shark takes their fish.

Bun­bury fish­er­men Rob Harrison and Luke Mott had two 4m-5m bronze whaler sharks take the dhu­fish they had on their line in the Abrol­hos Is­lands.

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