Thursday, August 18, 2005

Great white sharks present in Boston Bay

Port Lincoln is living up to its reputation as being the home of the Great White Shark.

Many shark sightings have been reported from Boston Bay following the arrival of four Japanese tuna processing boats a month ago.It seems sharks have been in close proximity to the vessels, and the thrill of spotting a white pointer has lured many to Boston and Porter Bays at Port Lincoln to go shark watching. Des Woolford, a former charter boat operator, was one of many who have seen Great White sharks swimming in close proximity to the Japanese tuna boats.

As Des explained to ABC Radio he and members of his family were on a cruise around the harbor when they thought they’d take a look at one of the Japanese freezer boats. There were a couple of other recreational boats in the area at the same time and a person on board one of these boats mentioned that there was at least one Great White shark in the area."...probably within about fifteen to twenty minutes we realized there was as many as three (great) white sharks in the area, from about eleven foot up to sixteen foot...”One of the recreational boats in the water was a five-metre aluminum tinny, and Des was asked if this was a safe option.

He admitted that he’d done it before but he would only recommend it to experienced boaties.“I think if you have got some knowledge of the Great White shark, yeah they’re very capable of doing a lot of horrible things and there’s countless stories of where sharks have come up and tried to come over the transom and look under the boat.” Des explained that he was able to steer the thirty-four foot yacht to within a couple of feet of the sharks.Any sailor with yacht experience would realise that yachts are prone to capsizing and that it was a bit of a risk to take, considering the amount of sharp teeth in the water.

But Des explained that the conditions were nearly as good as they get.“Quite calm. We’d actually had a fair bit of rain yesterday morning, but no it was quite nice conditions yesterday afternoon, however I wouldn’t have liked to be in the water...”When asked how the sharks were behaving, Des claimed:"They were certainly looking for something to eat. Probably whilst we were there we witnessed probably at least two tuna drop off the deck of the processing boat, which is a source of food for them.”

Des also admitted that he wasn’t surprised to see the sharks in close proximity to the tuna vessels.“Not greatly surprised... I have heard stories where there has been... eight different sharks witnessed in one day.”When asked whether he believed that shark numbers were increasing, Des answered:“Certainly not declining, it’s possible that they could even be inclining, but certainly no less. Never has been any less..." This possible increase in shark numbers has been more visible since the vessels arrived a month ago.

The first of the Japanese vessels to arrive was the Tuna Queen followed by the Mieta Maru, the Sako Maru number 16 and the Corona Reefer.The Environment Protection Authority has also investigated into whether these four Japanese processing vessels near Port Lincoln are offloading fish waste illegally into Boston and Porter Bays. Terry Clark, manager of public affairs says that if evidence of waste seeping into the bays was found, they may face prosecution.Mr Clark says officers have boarded the vessels to find out what is happening.

“It’s pretty hard to speculate, but we’re going over there in response to reports into the EPA that there have been discharges from the freezer boats and also the fish processing boats of offal and waste water into the bay. And so we want to go over there and have a look at the situation and find out if these allegations are correct or not.”When asked what proof the EPA would need to prosecute offending vessels, Mr Clark responded:“I would think if they’re discharging offal and waste water which would contain blood into the bay, then it would be quite visible.”

Mr Clark was also asked if he believed that evidence of an increased shark presence in the area would indicate that something unnatural was entering the water.

I wouldn’t like to speculate but certainly if there’s offal and the like in the water there’s potential for attracting sharks, yes.”

But public affairs manager Terry Clarke says they found no evidence of offal and wastewater being discharged into the bay.An EPA officer inspected vessels over three days last week. It was however discovered that there are limited facilities for the disposal of wastewater in the district.The Environment Protection Authority will meet with the Tuna Boat Owners Association to discuss the limited wastewater facilities in Port Lincoln.


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