Shark attack ‘a matter of time’ after explosion in numbers
FISHING charter guides and commercial anglers say shark numbers in the waters off Townsville have exploded to such high levels they will not let their families swim in the ocean.
Commercial fisherman Nathan Rynn believes it's only a matter of time before the Townsville region experiences a shark attack, after two English tourists were attacked by sharks off Airlie Beach on Tuesday.
Mr Rynn runs his operation around waters from Townsville to Bowen and believes there will be more attacks if shark numbers are not brought under control.
"We've been bashing on for years about the shark numbers and no one will listen until someone gets eaten," he said.
"I encourage people I know not to swim in the ocean here anymore, and I won't let my kids in.
"Twelve years ago I would have one offshore net to chase small sharks, queen fish, grey mackerel - species like that - and it would last 12 months.
"Ten years later I go through four of these nets in the same amount of time, costing $20,000, and the reason is the increase in large shark numbers."
Respected former charter guide Ryan Moody, who is based in Cardwell, said fishing bag limits of one shark per person - and a maximum size of 1.5m - had helped contribute to an explosion in shark numbers, in particular the whaler shark family including bull sharks and bronze whalers.
"It's absolutely pathetic that the government is protecting them," he said. "It's out of control, 85 per cent of the fish we hook don't get to the boat, the sharks get them. And we've even had crabbers saying their crab pots in the Hinchinbrook Channel have been hit by bull sharks.
"We have to look after the environment and conservation is important, but it's gone too far."
Local fishing personality Eddie Riddle, who also operates as a charter guide around inland Townsville waters, says he has seen more sharks in the past five years than in the previous 25 years.
He pinpointed bull sharks as being the greatest threat to humans. "Bull sharks have just exploded in numbers and they're just getting more aggressive," he said.
"Thirty years ago if a shark took one of our hook-ups it would be a spectacle. Now on every second or third trip most fish are taken by sharks."
Mr Riddle said the removal of more than 150 drum lines in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park would threaten swimmers' safety.
"I have a friend who goes spearfishing at John Brewer Reef and he had every fish he speared taken by a shark," he said.
"He's a father of three, and he won't be towing his children (for waterskiing) in the waters around Magnetic Island.
"Without drum lines I won't be swimming there, no way."
But local dive operators say they have seen no ripple effects to business in the wake of Tuesday's attack, and believe there has been no increase in danger from shark attacks.
"I understand the mixed information when it comes to sharks and the mixed feelings people have about them," Adrenaline snorkel and Dive operations manager Nadine Huth said. "But they are part of the ocean and they play a vital role in the ecosystem."
Remote Area Dive operations manager Jason Mengel, who operates off Townsville and across the Great Barrier Reed, said they were experiencing little to no issues with sharks.
"I just think it's been blown way out of proportion," he said.
Pleasure Diving co-owner Nick Barrett, who operates on Magnetic Island, said his business was not experiencing any setbacks from the Whitsunday attacks.
'We don't really see many sharks when we dive here," he said. "We're pretty happy to see the drum lines removed."