Stavros lives in Townsville, owns three boats, and has fished the rivers, estuaries and reefs for thirty years. Stavros has been a member of the Townsville Gamefishing Club for 25 years, is a current board member, and also represents the FNQ clubs on the QLD Gamefishing Association’s board. Fishing is a huge part of Stavros’ identity, and is a true passion.

For me, and my closest friends and family, our zen, our sanity comes from being on the water. It could be on the 18 footer chasing barramundi, or it could be the 40 footer going out to the reef or a shoal to chase Spanish Mackerel. Indescribable how much it means to me to be able to fish regularly…other than kids and family, what more is there to life?”  

Shark-based depredation has become more of a problem for Stavros, particularly while line-fishing:

“GBR line fishing is getting harder and harder. Can’t just drive to a particular area, anchor up … catch a feed and then just go home.  Lot of moving … hard work… bottom life looking good … but you physically can’t get a fish past the sharks, so you move and try again and again…” 

Sharks were not always as significant a problem while reef fishing:

“Every fisho has stories about going from one anchor to another and catching ten or twenty nannygais and maybe getting sharked once for the night. That’s impossible now… Fishing was easier in the early 2000s, the sharks are getting more plentiful and just getting larger and larger”

When asked if the fish were less plentiful than they were in the past, Stavros offered that fish numbers still seemed good. The fish were still showing on the sounders, and could clearly be seen while free-diving in waters where the sharks were less active.

Stavros paints a vivid picture of how frustrating shark-based depredation can be.

“…to go Spanish Mackerel fishing, you’ve gone to collect bait, gone to buy tackle, fuelled the boat, put the crew together, that’s the fun part… Then you head out and hope to land a couple Spanish Mackerel to share with family and friends …expense is laid out, but you don’t mind because you love it… you arrive… where you’ve caught them before… and get even more excited when you start seeing them on the sounder… they’re now physically under the boat…that instant when you get your first hook-up, and you know from the sounder, and the run, it’s a Spanish Mackerel. Everyone’s excited, everything’s coming to fruition. To then have a sizeable shark to eat that fish, bite it in half, cut you off… might happen instantly, or in 5 minutes as you’re about to land that fish … you feel gutted…”

In Stavros’ opinion, the sharks have learned to associate boats with food. They are not just an issue in places where people regularly fish.

“Ventured to new territory, 500L of fuel, 70nm away from home to search out new territory… find what looks like beautiful fish…70-80m deep… gotta be big fish… Only to retrieve Red Emperor heads that weigh 5kg … not even feel the bite of the shark… to have a shark bite a fish like that off behind the gills in one bite… you lower your head in siappointment, and then my father does exactly the same thing… Red Emperor head. This was a very remote area of the GBR, which we were pretty sure very few people fish because of the distance. It’s a needle in a haystack”

Greg Finn is a commercial fisher in NSW. He left his previous career to pursue commercial fishing full-time 8 years ago, and was fishing commercially part-time for 22 years before that. Greg chose fishing, and it has become a huge part of his identity. As a passionate fisher, he cares deeply about the management of fisheries resources: 

“I care a lot about the resource being managed sustainably and used responsibly. It’s really important to have good numbers that represents what’s going on, and not just fictitious ones…”

In his down-time, Greg likes to free-dive with his young son, catching lobsters and spearing fish.

Over the past 5-10 years, Greg has experienced an increasing number of shark interactions, particularly bull sharks, which he finds particularly aggressive and cunning: 

“You feel like you’re being hunted while you’re working”

For Greg, the sharks are not so much of an issue when he is drop-lining for deep-water demersal fish, but more of a problem inshore. Greg notes that depredation does not appear to be evenly spread across the board. However, he has been hearing more stories from fishers about fish being aggressively taken by sharks.

As a man who spends much of his life in and around the ocean, Greg has had his share of shark experiences. The following two interactions stood out for him:

“It was my 40th birthday in May… It was a beautiful, dead calm day, the kids were at school, and the wife at work. I don’t usually take a day off work, so I went abalone diving out of Port Stephens. I remember standing in my boat with my wetsuit on, and about to dive in when I observed a baby dolphin, really close to its parents, and close to the boat… then there was a huge commotion… and a shark fully breached and took the baby dolphin. I drove over, and there was no footprint, no indication of it ever happening. No one else saw it. Then as I looked around, a whole pod of dolphins were trying to climb the rocks out of fear…”

“About five years later, I was in the same area, I saw a pair of bull sharks in the area… suddenly, one arched its back, dropped its pectoral fins and launched at my face… I had my speargun and went to jab at it… it bit my speargun, and shook it… realised I wasn’t a dolphin, and left…”

Greg does not believe in needlessly killing sharks: 

“I have a healthy respect for sharks and realise they’re meant to be there, and have an important role. I wouldn’t kill anything unless it had some commercial value.” 

But he is definitely sympathetic of recreational fishers who experience shark-based depredation: 

“Commercial and recreational fishers are losing a lot of efficiency in QLD to shark depredation too. A lot of fish … would have been landed to be eaten if they weren’t eaten by sharks…”