Geoscience Reference
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hammerhead sharks using lines. In addition, sharks were destroyed by other
fishers who regarded the predators as a nuisance because they interfered with the
fish catches (Anonymous, 1933b). One account of 1933, by Northman (1933,
p39), described the destruction of sharks while fishing:
But do not bother too much about killing a shark. Just give him [ sic ] a bullet,
and that will be sufficient. His friends will do the rest. As soon as he is
wounded, he is attacked by others.
Several of these popular accounts refer to the occurrence of very large sharks in
the Great Barrier Reef; for example, Lamond (1936, p25) described the capture
of a sixteen-foot shark, and Caldwell (1936, p91) referred to a hammerhead shark
with a hammer six feet across.
Sharks have also been depleted since 1962 as a result of the nets and drum
lines set for bather protection. Following two fatal shark attacks in the summer of
1962, A. J. Peel (1962, p764), the Director of the QDHM, stated: 'Tenders have
now been called for long-term shark fishing contracts on the South, near North
and Cairns coast which are due to commence on 1 November 1962'. From that
date until 31 May 1963, Peel (1963, p838) reported, 1,073 sharks and 910 shark
pups were captured, figures which 'far exceeded the most optimistic estimates of
the probable take'; Peel also stated that 26 grey nurse sharks, which previously
had been regarded as rare in Queensland waters, were caught. Catches of similar
magnitudes were made for the remainder of that decade. In 1964, of a total catch
of 1,056 sharks, Peel reported that most animals were caught in northern coastal
waters, with 295 sharks being destroyed in the vicinity of the Cairns beaches
alone. By 15 June 1970, a total of 10,622 sharks and 5,643 shark pups had been
caught since the introduction of the shark control program in 1962 . 1
Impacts on fish
Fishing has taken place in the Great Barrier Reef since the earliest period of
European exploration. A large number of documentary and oral sources describe
that activity; those sources exhibit a vast diversity of opinions and perceptions
about the nature, methods, extent and impacts of fishing on the resources of the
Great Barrier Reef. Furthermore, extensive debates have taken place about the
relative impacts of commercial and recreational fishing, and anecdotal reports of
decline of fish stocks as a result of both of these layers of fishing effort have been
made. Here, those debates are not reviewed in detail, nor are the vast quantities of
empirical materials about fishing reviewed systematically; the enormous amount
of documentary and oral history evidence that relates to fish species in the Great
Barrier Reef precludes exhaustive consideration of the impacts of fishing in this
book. Indeed the history of fishing in the GBRWHA requires separate, detailed
treatment. Instead, in this section, I present a limited amount of documentary
and oral history evidence about selected impacts of fishing, in order to provide
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