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State Gov puts in $350k to try to stop sharks taking fish off lines

Headshot of Shannon Verhagen
Shannon VerhagenSouth Western Times
Bunbury fishermen Rob Harrison and Luke Mott had two 4-5m bronze whaler sharks take the dhufish they had on their line in the Abrolhos Islands.
Camera IconBunbury fishermen Rob Harrison and Luke Mott had two 4-5m bronze whaler sharks take the dhufish they had on their line in the Abrolhos Islands. Credit: Supplied

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 tiger shark took most of this spanish mackerel for lunch before Bunbury fisherman Luke Mott could reel it in at Exmouth.
Camera IconA tiger shark took most of this spanish mackerel for lunch before Bunbury fisherman Luke Mott could reel it in at Exmouth. Credit: Supplied

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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”.

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.
Camera IconBunbury fishing family Kaidence Mott, 11, Luke Mott and Noah Mott, 6, love throwing a line in, but not when a shark takes their fish. Credit: Shannon Verhagen

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.

Bunbury fisherman Luke Mott wasn't happy when a 3.5m tiger shark took most of his Breaksea Cod before he'd reeled it in off Bunbury.
Camera IconBunbury fisherman Luke Mott wasn't happy when a 3.5m tiger shark took most of his Breaksea Cod before he'd reeled it in off Bunbury. Credit: Supplied

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.”

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