Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Increasing number of great white sharks

Professional fishermen have warned of an increase in sightings of great white sharks off WA's coast, The Sunday Times reported.

Shark-boat skippers operating out of Perth, Esperance and Albany say the number of white pointers encountered has soared, with dozens sighted recently.

Last month, Two Rocks professional shark fisherman Jamie Thornton hooked a 3m great white about 5km off Hillarys.

"There's a heap of great whites around. People would be totally shocked if they realised how many were out there," he said.

Esperance shark-boat skipper Frank Ramanauskas said a 4m great white cruised alongside his boat for 20 minutes last week.

"He was that close, I could have poked a stick at it," he said.

"He was just cruising next to us for 15 to 20 minutes, waiting for something to fall over the side.
"We go out for a week to 10 days and these days we're seeing a great white on average every trip. Sometimes we'll see three." Albany skipper Geoff Campbell said he had seen two great whites in the past three weeks.

In previous years, it was uncommon to see a great white more than once every two months.
"We saw a big one last week and another white pointer a couple of weeks before that," he said.
"You hardly ever used to see them, but there's a lot around at the moment, there's no doubt about it.

"There's definitely more around and you only have to look at the numbers.

"We're seeing them more and more frequently and it's just a matter of time until there are more attacks.

"It's going to happen, it's just a question of when." The warning comes just weeks after South Australian Jake Heron was attacked by a 4m great white while surfing near Port Lincoln.
A month earlier, marine biologist Jarrod Stehbens was fatally mauled by a great white while diving off Adelaide's Glenelg Beach.

And the deadliest killers of the deep are just as likely to be patrolling WA beaches.

A CSIRO tagging program last year tracked great white sharks moving along the coast from Adelaide into WA waters and as far north as Exmouth.

Mr Campbell said most sightings had been of medium-sized great whites about 3-4m.
There are 10 shark boats operating in WA's southern waters, most venturing no more than 100km offshore in search of gummy sharks, school sharks and bronze whalers.

Despite the reports of more sightings, WA Fisheries shark researcher Rory McAuley doubted great white shark numbers had increased.

This was despite the fact they were now a protected species in Australia.

"What has happened over recent years is the level of reporting of shark incidents, sightings and attacks has improved in both the media and the general public," Mr McAuley said.


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