Saturday, March 15, 2008

Record Shark Taken-Eco Debate

Seems as if the good folks in Brisbane, Australia have their heads on right. Last week a record sized Bull shark was taken as part of a Muddy Water sportfishing competition.

Obviously from the comment blowback, even though these animals have been attributed to several deaths in the area, Australians like their underwater predators live, healthy, and living to see another day.

We would have to agree.

A RECORD-SIZED shark taken in a Brisbane River fishing competition has started a war of words over whether such an animal should be killed for sport.

Brisbane River Classic fishing competitor Terry Hessey caught the 2.9m bull shark at the mouth of the river in December and pictures posted on the internet have since fired up debate.Mr Hessey did not want to comment on the issue but fishing competition organiser Angus Gorrie said the angler usually released fish unharmed.

"Inevitably, there are some fatalities but about four in five sharks are released," he said.

Mr Gorrie said he believed the shark was the largest caught in the river. It was weighed but the scales registered to only 200kg.

Courier-Mail fishing columnist Dave Downie said it probably weighed 250kg to 300kg and was the largest he had seen. "I don't agree with something like that being killed for no reason. I'd rather see catch and release," Mr Downie said.

University of Queensland researcher Craig Franklin said it was wrong to take an animal merely for the thrill of a kill. Bull sharks were at the top of the food chain and their removal risked triggering a trickle-down effect which could upset the balance of species.

Mr Gorrie said he understood there was a trophy element to Mr Hessey's kill but most smaller bull sharks were taken for eating just as people ate bream or whiting.

His competition would in future cater for photographic entries so animals did not have to be killed and weighed.

CSIRO researcher Richard Pillans said the shark was female, 25 to 30 years old and appeared ready to give birth.

"It's a shame. An animal of that age is extremely important," he said.

"You've got a far greater chance of being killed in your car than by one of these."

The University of Florida international shark attack file recorded just four deaths from sharks world-wide in 2006.

Last year, 1616 Australians died in car accidents.

Mr Gorrie agreed, saying the shark's reputation was exaggerated as there were relatively few incidents. They were caught in summer but rarely seen in cooler months because they tended not to feed then.

Professor Franklin said the risk of attack was greatly lessened simply by not swimming in estuaries at dawn or dusk especially in summer.

"It's fantastic that Brisbane has a shark like that in its river," he said. "Sharks don't go out to target humans. We've got to learn to live with species like that."

Dr Pillans said the river had a population of 2000 to 5000 juveniles but the number of adults was unclear. In the US 95 per cent of bull sharks had been wiped out.

They gave birth to six to 13 pups at the mouth of the river after which the young swam to the upper reaches around College's Crossing.

Professor Franklin said bull sharks were one of the world's more unusual marine species in that they could live either in fresh or salt water.They were more often seen than other sharks simply because many cities were built on waterways.