Twenty years ago large sharks were scarce at Swain’s, “now there are five or six bull sharks 12 feet and over at every an­chor­age, big enough to eat two peo­ple in one bite.”

The Morning Bulletin - - FRONT PAGE - JANN HOULEY jann.houley@cap­news.com.au

CEN­TRAL Queens­land an­glers be­lieve gov­ern­ment mis­man­age­ment is be­hind an ex­plo­sion in the num­ber of large sharks in pop­u­lar fish­ing spots off the Capri­corn Coast.

They are speak­ing out as de­bate rages over the roll­out of baited drum­lines around the Whit­sun­days’ Cid Har­bour in re­sponse to a fa­tal at­tack this week.

The not-for-profit Jolly Roger Fish­ing Club has con­demned con­tin­u­ing mis­man­age­ment of lo­cal wa­ters by the Queens­land Gov­ern­ment.

It be­lieves tra­di­tional prac­tices, which in­cluded fish­ing for sharks around boats, main­tained an en­vi­ron­men­tal bal­ance which has been thrown out of whack by declar­ing them a pro­tected species.

“20 years ago, there’d be three or four big sharks across all of Swain Reefs and dozens of lit­tle ones,” JRFC sup­porter Neill Xx­avier said.

“Now there are five or six bull sharks, 12 feet and over, at every an­chor­age, big enough to eat two peo­ple in one bite,” Mr Xx­avier said.

Com­mer­cial fish­er­man Ryan Cowley said: “And to add in­sult to in­jury, every time there’s a knee­jerk re­ac­tion to a shark at­tack, the gov­ern­ment’s waiv­ing the pro­tected sta­tus and culling the wrong species.”

The ac­tivist groups Sea Shep­herd, Shark Con­ser­va­tion Aus­tralia and the Hu­mane So­ci­ety are mount­ing cam­paigns against the prac­tice which, they ar­gue, in­dis­crim­i­nately kills other ma­rine life and po­ten­tially at­tracts sharks to the area.

Agri­cul­tural, In­dus­try De­vel­op­ment and Fish­eries Min­is­ter Mark Furner is cam­paign­ing to en­tice over­seas in­vest­ment in aqua­cul­ture farms, which will di­rectly com­pete with com­mer­cial reef fish­ing.

Ac­cord­ing to the Jolly Rogers, the gov­ern­ment al­lows pri­vate cor­po­ra­tions to snap up the quo­tas which reg­u­late how many tonnes of tuna can be fished in a given year.

“Once we’ve reached our re­duced quota, they charge us $6/kilo, which is just about what the fish reach on the mar­ket,” Mr Cowley said.

“We might as well sit at home on the dole rather than pay to run our boats for no re­turn.”

The col­lec­tive is up in arms over the manda­tory satel­lite track­ing sys­tems (VMS) which, at a cost of nearly $500 per boat to buy and $44/month to op­er­ate, may com­pro­mise their in­come and in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty.

JRFC’s Stephanie Foote said: “There’s no way to fix the VMS boxes at sea so, if one of them fails, we have five days by law to re­turn to land.”

The track­ing tech­nol­ogy, which claims to counter the crim­i­nal el­e­ment who en­ter green zones, also alerts the gov­ern­ment where the lo­cals have found vi­able fish­ing spots.

Dr Michelle Voyer, from Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy Syd­ney, met with Glad­stone com­mer­cial fish­er­men ear­lier this month as part of a gov­ern­ment-funded re­port into Fish­eries Queens­land’s ef­fec­tive­ness at en­gag­ing with com­mer­cial stake­hold­ers.

The re­port, which will be tabled in De­cem­ber, pro­poses new ways and tools for im­prov­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion, co-op­er­a­tion and on­go­ing re­la­tion­ships.

But for the Jolly Rogers, it may be a case of too lit­tle, too late.

“This is not a prob­lem of per­cep­tion,” Mr Xx­avier said.

“It’s a prob­lem of pol­icy and for too long the gov­ern­ment has re­fused to take lo­cal fish­er­men’s con­cerns se­ri­ously and to ac­knowl­edge our ex­per­tise as a col­lec­tive.”

The of­fice of Agri­cul­tural In­dus­try De­vel­op­ment and Fish­eries was ap­proached for com­ment but had not re­sponded by 5.30pm yes­ter­day.




Photo: Con­trib­uted

SHARK’S TALE: The crew of the Ma­ha­rani, a com­mer­cial live trout boat that has fished Swain Reefs all year round for 40 years, say they are un­der threat from Gov­ern­ment poli­cies. In­set: Neill Xx­avier.

Photo: Supplied

Four bull sharks were tagged and re­leased in the Rich­mond River at Bal­lina in Feb­ru­ary last year.

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