'We’re worried, we don’t want to see any more tragedies'
TWO commercial fishermen have warned that shark numbers in North Queensland are "out of control" after catching two three-metre sharks just kilometres off popular tourist beaches.
Bowen-based brothers and local commercial net fishermen Nathan and Travis Rynn said they hadn't been surprised by a recent rise in shark attacks.
However, after catching 2.9m and 3.1m bull sharks just kilometres off Bowen's iconic Horsehoe Bay, the pair are warning that the marine creature's numbers in the region's oceans have 'exploded' over the last five years to dangerous levels.
The warning comes after last week's attack on two British backpackers at Hook Passage, the fifth Whitsundays attack in a year.
Nathan Rynn said environmental campaigns from organisations such as WWF (World Wildlife Fund) and a halving in government regulated commercial catch numbers about ten years ago have driven a spike in the state's shark population.
"Since then, there's been a huge decrease in commercial shark fishing in the region. We've lost those shark markets and we're not harvesting the smaller ones and now they've got big," he said.
"There are hundreds of them out there at extremely dangerous levels now.
"They follow us and eat our catches and the charter and recreation sectors will tell you the same."
Mr Rynn said although they were licensed to catch sharks of this size, it was a rare occurrence.
He said the nets they use were not made to catch sharks so large and they would normally 'eat their way through'.
"We used to go through around $5000 on the net every year but now we're using four times that as the sharks are destroying it," Mr Rynn said.
"Getting these two is a surprise as usually there's nothing left of the net."
He said he believed that the population of fish in the region was slowly rising, but not to the level the large shark population was growing to, thus creating a 'fight for food'.
"There's food there, but there's too many of them to balance it," he said.
"We've been talking to the Department of Fisheries and warning them for about three years now that the shark levels are rising.
"I won't even let my kids swim in the ocean now because of what I've seen. I'm not dramatising that."
Mr Rynn said there was no easy solution to the growing shark population, but he believed that the installation of SMART drumlines and the ability to harvest larger sharks would 'go a long way' to assisting.
"The greenies will tell you it doesn't work, that we shouldn't be killing large sharks, but the drumlines are designed to catch a hungry shark," he said.
"If a big hungry shark comes to the beach, he grabs the drumline and he'll be dispatched.
"Without the drumlines, they come in and what are they looking for? A swimmer, snorkeller or a scuba diver will be on that list. The drumline will stop that hungry shark."
He's called for the ability to catch larger sharks with the use of purpose-specific apparatuses, such as a dropper rig.
"We don't want to harvest any more sharks, we want to harvest within our current limits. We're just asking to harvest more large animals than we currently can," Mr Rynn said.
"Catching these large sharks a few kilometres off Queens Beach and Horseshoe Bay may seem insignificant, but they've been tracked to move from the Whitsundays to the Torres Strait in 24 hours, so they move.
"We're worried, we don't want to see any more tragedies occur."