Aussie fisherman's striking shark footage reveals 'phenomenal' problem

Commercial fisherman Richard Gilmore says he has seen a huge increase in the number of sharks off the country's east coast over the past 10 years.

Left, sharks chasing and eating a fish on Richard Gilmore’s line. Right, Richard trying to furiously pull the fish up to the boat.
Commercial fisherman Richard Gilmore, from Queensland, said he finds himself 'racing' against sharks almost every day. Source: Richard Gilmore/On The Other Line Fishing Adventures

Striking underwater footage of a group of sharks ripping apart a professional fisherman’s catch as he furiously tries to reel it in by hand has sparked a discussion about what some say has become a daily battle in Aussie waters. The clip shows one of the powerful sharks taking a chunk out of a large fish hanging from the end of Richard Gilmore’s line off the country’s east coast earlier this year.

Seconds later, the apex predators rush back toward the half-eaten snack to finish the job, wiping the hook clean before it returns to the sustainable commercial fisherman’s boat — a common behaviour known as shark depredation.

“It’s something we see quite often,” Gilmore, who runs Pristine Reef Fish predominately out of Cairns, told Yahoo News on Monday, explaining he’s “racing” sharks almost every day.

“And a lot of the sharks we’re dealing with are big sharks. They’re up there upwards of 100 kilos quite often.” Over the past 10 years, the number of sharks in the Great Barrier Reef have increased exponentially, Gilmore said, describing “shark interaction” as “phenomenal these days”.

The fisherman told Yahoo the high chance of a shark encounter has made some areas impossible to work in.

“I change areas a lot and my target species a lot. So depending on what the sharks are doing on any given day, will change the way I fish and the methods that I use,” Gilmore continued. If he loses one or two fish to a shark, he will quickly move on.

“We don’t just poke around somewhere close by, because sharks will follow the boat in that manner,” the business owner said, pointing to Queensland Government restrictions protecting all sharks over 1.5m as the cause of the issue.

As per the rules, vulnerable great white sharks, critically endangered grey nurse sharks, hammerheads, sand tiger and speartooth sharks are all protected.

A shark chasing a fish on Richard Gilmore’s line seen from underwater.
Richard Gilmore said he has experienced a huge increase in shark interactions. Source: Richard Gilmore/On The Other Line Fishing Adventures

Numerous videos of Aussies having close encounters with sharks have emerged in recent years, with a “majestic” moment involving a great white shark off the coast of Port Stephens in May being credited to the creature’s attraction to a boat’s motor.

When asked by Yahoo if the shark population is increasing, or if the clever marine animals had simply clued onto where they could score an easy feed, Humane Society International marine biologist Lawrence Chlebeck described it as a “tricky situation”.

“We do know that shark populations are declining, and specifically, they’re declining on Australia’s east coast,” he explained.

“However, because of human activity — whether it’s fishing, shark nets and shark control programmes — what we’re doing is we’re changing the community of sharks or the amount of different species that are out there.

“So while certain sharks like hammerheads are in a pretty precipitous decline, there are other species that are now taking over those places — what we call ecological niches — that hammerhead sharks and other species once habituated, so things like bull sharks we're seeing more of.

Sharks are also incredibly smart, Chlebeck continued, so they do recognise places where they can get an opportunistic feed.

“Whether it’s commercial or recreational [fishing], that’s something that they have clued in on, and they’re going to follow. So yes, fishermen are seeing more sharks. I definitely agree with that, and that’s true,” he said.

“But at the same time, sharks are in decline, and it’s mostly because of our behaviour and how communities of sharks are reacting to that.”

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