‘Busted up’: New theory on shark explosion claims
A SENIOR marine researcher is calling for vital funding to increase shark population research as he aims to explain why Far Northern fishers are getting "busted up" more often.
James Cook University fisheries senior lecturer Dr Andrew Chin said cries of shark populations spiralling out of control could be true, but there was no data to prove numbers were rising.
The former Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority staffer said a number of factors, including animal behaviour, was likely making it seem to recreational fishers, that the population was rising. His comments come after Fishing Port Douglas' Lynton Heffer said shark numbers had "definitely exploded", while Cassowary Coast recreational fisher Mark Anderson labelled that as "hype".
"It is possible they're both right," Dr Chin said
"We have 135 different species of sharks and rays up here. It's highly possible some are increasing while others are declining.
"But we don't have the evidence. The best long-term data we have is catch records from the Queensland Shark Control Program.
"But the problem is that only works along beaches, so you're only getting information on coastal sharks, no where else."
He said the ability of sharks to learn was likely leading to fisherman thinking numbers had increased.
"Anecdotal evidence, I've had people tell me that sharks don't follow the dive boats, but they follow the fishing boats because they know the sound of the engine."
Dr Chin said he would like to see funding for research before measures were taken.
"The first thing we need to do is talk to fisherman and get a sense of when this has become more noticeable.
"What activities they are doing, what type of fishing it is happening to and then work out which species of sharks are actually doing this.
"If it's a behavioural thing, how can we deprogram the sharks."
He dismissed calls for commercial shark fishing as well as finning, because he said no commercial operator was currently meeting the Queensland Sustainable Fisheries Strategy quota.
"There's a total limit for 500 tonnes in sharks. But there's no one buying it and no one transporting the fins overseas. So there's no incentive.
Originally published as 'Busted up': New theory on shark explosion claims