Debate rages after shark caught at popular Aussie swimming spot

A fisherman has faced criticism after hooking the deadly catch.

A couple have been criticised for reeling in a shark at a popular swimming spot on Queensland's Gold Coast. In a video of the incident, a fisherman can be seen standing on the banks of Tallebudgera Creek with a shark on the end of his fishing line.

While his catch remains motionless in the shallows, the man tries to pull it up onto the sand, before the shark slaps its tail in the water.

"It looks like a juvenile bull shark and it certainly fits the profile, location and time of year," Professor Culum Brown from the School of Natural Sciences at Macquarie University told Yahoo News Australia, adding that bull sharks are one of the most dangerous species in Australia. "They're certainly listed in the top three shark species that are related to human shark interactions, so they do tend to bite people."

Fisherman pulling in shark at Tallebudgera Creek on the Gold Coast.
A fisherman accidentally hooked a shark at a popular Gold Coast swimming spot. Source: Facebook

The couple said they published the video on Facebook as a "reminder" of "what's in the waterways", but many locals weren't surprised by the find. "They're everywhere, through all the water systems of the Gold Coast," one resident responded. "Plenty in there," echoed another.

"The main thing to know about bull sharks generally is that they spend a lot of time in estuaries," Brown added. "So they're not like your typical coastal sharks, like tigers and whites, which move down the coast and offshore. Bull sharks spend a lot of time in estuaries and small tidal creeks, just like this."

"I just think people need to be aware that there are bull sharks in these canal systems up and down pretty much the whole northeast coast. So you know, they've always been there, they will always be there, and you just have to be mindful that it's a possibility that you might get bitten, but it's extremely rare."

Locals outraged bycatch

Others on Facebook were furious that a shark had been caught in the creek. "The most unfortunate thing is that there are humans in the waterways and some think these waterways belong to them," a local commented, while others criticised the fisherman for not releasing the catch back into the water.

The partner of the angler fired back, saying "we removed [the] hook and released [the shark]" before it swam away. "People go fishing, can't predict what's going to hook up," she added.

Debate over shark fishing

While the couple didn't catch the shark on purpose, the incident has reignited the debate over whether or not people should be allowed to intentionally fish for sharks from Aussie beaches.

In Western Australia, the state government recently moved to ban shark fishing across all beaches in Perth following two fatal shark attacks in three years. Conservationists welcomed the move, saying it was a win for public safety and shark welfare.

However, in Queensland shark fishing remains a popular recreational activity at some southern beaches, according to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. While those fishing are encouraged to "only fish for sharks away from swimmers and other waterway users".

Brown argues it's just encouraging sharks to come closer to shore, putting people at risk. "Personally, I think it does and it's simply due to the fact that you're throwing bait in the water," he said. "So nobody could argue that that's not going to attract sharks. I mean, the point of catching sharks is to attract them. That's how it works.

"There are those who take in a sort of slightly different view that once you catch a shark, it tends to be stressed and it swims away and leaves the area for some brief period of time. Of course, these animals move around a lot and so they'll be back, and if it's not that individual there'll be another one. So, personally, I think that if there are people swimming, or potentially swimming in the area, people should not be fishing for sharks. It's incompatible."

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