The other casualties of our shark ‘explosion’



Queensland fishermen are losing at least half their catch to sharks, hooking prized spanish mackerel only to discover they've been savaged by the monsters of the deep.

Commercial fishing industry spokesman Michael Thompson said sharks were stealing catches, sabotaging charters and mauling the livelihoods of fishermen who had been "hamstrung in all directions" by predators, red tape and COVID-19 closures.

"This has been going on since 2011, it has been brought up with (the Department of) Fisheries over and over and over again," Mr Thompson said.

"They've created an imbalance of biodiversity by protecting… the top end of the food chain, which is the sharks, and (allowing) you to harvest the rest.

"Meaning sharks are taking at least half the haul."

Mr Thompson - who is chairman of the Fishermen's Portal, a group he says represents more than Queensland 250 operators - said in a "horrendous" year where COVID-19 closures had decimated the industry, the sharks were making a hard time even worse.

"It's a problem for recreational fishermen, commercial fishermen, the whole lot," Mr Thompson told The Courier-Mail.



Charter fisherman Robert Smith said it was a "kick in the guts".

"The population of sharks has boomed… because the big ones don't get taken out of the system," he said.

Mr Smith and Mr Thompson both attributed the growing issue to Department of Fisheries restrictions that prohibited the fishing of sharks over 1.5m.

"We never used to see a shark when we were snapper fishing… the last four or five years every time you find a patch of snapper it seems to have a shark in it," Mr Smith said.

A Department of Agriculture and Fisheries spokeswoman said commercial fishers with appropriate fishing symbols could take sharks over 1.5m, subject to catch limits.

But that commercially important species of shark was restricted to under 1.5m because bigger sharks had lower reproduction rates and were more vulnerable to overfishing.

"Fisheries Queensland is collaborating on a number of projects to investigate shark predation in Queensland," she said.

"Results from these projects will provide information to assist Fisheries Queensland manage predation impacts on fisheries productivity."


Fisherman Michael Thompson. Picture: Lachie Millard
Fisherman Michael Thompson. Picture: Lachie Millard


One of many commercial catches savaged by sharks. Picture: Michael Thompson
One of many commercial catches savaged by sharks. Picture: Michael Thompson


Mr Smith said summertime wasn't looking any better, with the season's prime catch, spanish mackerel, regularly savaged most times they were hooked.

"Especially on the Sunshine Coast, every time you land a mackerel you can't get it past the sharks before (they) pounce on them," Mr Smith said.

"(There's a) population explosion of sharks, and also a learned behaviour that they're associating boats with a free feed."

Mr Thompson said the "biodiversity imbalance" was threatening more than livelihoods, and could be responsible for the recent spate of shark attacks.

"We've said all along… you've got problems, they're going to start taking people and that's exactly what's going on," he said.

Five people have died from shark attacks on Australia's east coast this year, including Queensland father Matthew Tratt, who was killed while spearfishing off Fraser Island earlier this month.

"We need to find some markets for the commercial fishermen… to extract a few more sharks out of the system… to sell them," Mr Smith said.





Originally published as The other casualties of our shark 'explosion'