Stab Magazine | Massive Bull Shark Caught Off The Coast Of Newcastle
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Massive Bull Shark Caught Off The Coast Of Newcastle

You hook it we cook it.

news // Apr 27, 2017
Words by stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

A gargantuan bull shark has been caught off the coast of New South Wales and the internet is in a flurry. Two days ago, a photo was posted on Offshore Fishing NSW (a Facebook page that is, “a dedicated resource for NSW fisherman,” how niche) of the huge shark, caught out at Swansea Channel, near Newcastle. Cue the pitchforks sharpening. 

The caption of the photo itself: “Just got sent this from Swansea Channel 2 nights ago right off the cleaning tables at Blacksmith a solid bull shark… It ended up dead after being gut hooked and a huge fight… There must be plenty around…”

Screen Shot 2017 04 26 at 12.21.14 PM

What’s been lurking beneath the waters of Newcastle.

Regardless of the slight ominous undertones, the picture has been liked by over five thousand users and shared over three-thousand times. Digitalised popularity like that doesn’t come without contention, though. Breezing through the comments section, here are some highlights from both sides of the opinionated coin:

“If it was a tuna or marlin no one would give a shit!!! So sick of all the shark huggers these days!!! Well done on a great capture!!”

“Maybe people are more educated now and realise just how important these animals are to a healthy environment. It’s silly to say something like ‘these days,’ we should be getting smarter as time goes on. The ‘good old days’ don’t always equal better times, sometimes people are just more ignorant”

“Unless that shark left HIS HOME and came knocking at your door, he should still be alive and swimming. RIP.” 

“We should install some nets to keep the human away from the ocean life. It isn’t safe anymore. Maybe even implement some culling to reduce the number of fishermen.”

The digital soapbox conclusions echo on and on.

While I personally just go with my father’s advice of not eating anything that can ever eat me back — hence why I steer clear of crocodile burgers and mako fillets — so my personal opinion is untraditionally grounded; this photo, and subsequent commentary, brings the capture, tag, or kill debate back to light. 

During a controversial time, as well. Context: Last week’s death of 17-year-old Laeticia Brouwer off Esperance, unfortunately, re-highlighted the question over what should be done to protect swimmers and surfers from toothy subterranean creatures. Australian Federal environment minister, Josh Frydenberg, accused WA of propagating a hostile environment for such attacks on account of their supposed history of failures to respond. “The commonwealth would welcome any proposal to protect human life first and foremost,” he said, suggesting culling or other more drastic measures be taken.

The issue has even gained enough traction to be recently picked up by The New York Times, which hinted at the use of baited drum lines — hooks suspended between a float and the ocean floor (think that one scene from Jaws where the red drum gets dragged away and underwater at frightening speeds from The Orca) — as an effective measure for capturing and tagging sharks.

Scientists in Brazil have been using this method in the murkier waters of Recife, at the country’s eastern tip. Which were useful to the tune of an apparent 97 percent decline in bites. Other beaches have utilised surface-to-seabed enclosures and erected flags to warn beachgoers. Different tactics for the same problem.

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One of the mesh enclosures in action in Perth.

Some beaches in NSW are protected by nets designed to catch sharks before they come too close to shore. Which have a track record of success, snagging 133 “target” creatures in the mesh. However, a majority of those caught died, resulting in backlash.

“If you kill all the sharks you won’t have any attacks,” says Nathan Hard, an associate professor of biological sciences at Macquarie University, to The New York Times. “But you don’t take every car off the road just because some people crash. 

States and territories already pour millions of dollars into helicopters and drones to keep watch. These tax dollars being spent prior to WA’s proposed subsidy on Shark Shied devices.

And while there is actual no evidence to suggest that the perceived uptick in attacks is caused by a growing population of sharks. Or, that the creatures are coming closer to shore than normal, the debate is ongoing. What we do know, for now, is that there’s someone in Newcastle with a picture to show the grandkids and enough bull shark steaks to stock the freezers at Merewether Surfhouse until 2019.

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