Sharks on the prowl
SHARKS are roaming Fraser Coast waters in plague-like proportions, stalking boats, stealing catches of fish and hunting in packs.
Fishing operators north of the Cooloola Coast this week said the repeated floods were to blame for increased shark activity in the area and the predators' behaviour was concerning some within the industry.
Hervey Bay Fraser Island Guided Fishing's Mark Bargenquast, a man with more than 30 years angling experience, claimed sharks on the Fraser Coast had changed their hunting patterns.
Mr Bargenquast said in previous years, sharks would tear one tuna off the line from every 15 that fishermen snared.
But recently, he said up to 10 out of 15 tuna had been eaten from their hooks.
"I think it's a combination of floods from last year and this year," Mr Bargenquast said.
"It certainly flushes a lot of food out and dirty water seems to attract all the bull sharks.
"They're actually learning to sit under the boat; you see them on the sand and as soon as you hook a fish, they're sitting under the boat waiting."
Statistics from Maritime Safety Queensland confirmed that shark activity had increased within the region.
The department's shark control program, which protected beaches along Queensland's coastline, had only one Fraser Coast location and that was Rainbow Beach.
In 2010-11, the nets and drum lines at Rainbow Beach trapped 44 large sharks - of 2m plus - which was the highest number in Queensland.
Only 26 were trapped the previous year in the same location.
Statistics for the first quarter of 2012 showed 22 sharks were caught in control equipment off Rainbow Beach - five in January, five in February and 12 in March.
Of those, 13 were considered large sharks.
If the current catch rate continued, a projected total of 52 large sharks could be caught.
Shark research scientist Jonathan Werry said sharks were known to travel great distances if food supply was plentiful.
"We have, in the last two years, had massive flooding throughout Queensland and that certainly has had an impact in coastal areas," he said.
"I have looked at that data from Rainbow Beach and suspect that a lot of that can be explained from that flooding rainfall which has brought smaller fish in and then sharks as well."
Dr Werry said tagging program tracking data showed the overall shark population might not have increased.