More salmon = more sharks?
  |  First Published: April 2009

It’s undeniable that in more recent times shark sightings are becoming far more common and attacks occurring far too regularly.

It is generally agreed by those on the water that shark numbers are on the increase. The question being asked is – why?

We are continually informed that the increase in numbers is directly attributable to the cleanliness of the water in Sydney Harbour.

This is partly correct, along with the closure of the fish cannery at Eden, the banning of kingfish traps, the banning of commercial netting in Sydney Harbour, the protection of certain shark species and, of course, there are far more people in the water today, increasing the probability of sightings and attack.

After speaking with many commercial and recreational fishers between Port Stephens and the Queensland border, I am of the belief that there is another major contributing factor continually overlooked by our decision makers.

The State Government implemented a closure in August 2001 prohibiting the taking of Australian salmon by netting methods north of Barrenjoey Headland.

There was no research, no statistical analysis and no consultation with commercial or recreational fishers.

The reason given for the closure was to ‘allocate the resource between recreational and commercial fishers’.

This closure has come back to bite the decision makers on their bums.

Salmon numbers have not only exploded in Sydney but also right along the North coast and into Queensland.

Common knowledge tells us that predator numbers will increase as food becomes more readily available.


I would suggest that north of the Barrenjoey line, all commercial fishers and the growing majority of recreational fishos, are fully aware of this expanding problem.

As one of only two members of ACoRF (Advisory Council on Recreational Fishing) between Port Stephens and the Queensland border, I have continually stressed to the Fisheries Minister the current imbalance caused by the increasing salmon population.

My concerns are reflected by the other northern advisor, Charlie Howe, from Tweed Heads, who is experiencing an identical situation.

Research being conducted by Dr John Stewart from DPI, focusing on the impact of salmon, has suggested that ‘commercial and recreational fishing of salmon is sustainable’.

In other words, there is absolutely no reason why salmon should be banned from commercial fishing. There never was.

The removal of the Barrenjoey line, permitting northern commercial fishermen to net salmon, will not totally solve the shark problem but it will go part way to restoring some degree of balance.

Importantly, as Dr Stewart outlines, the commercial take will not impact on the recreational availability of this excellent fighting fish.

It’s all about sharing a resource.

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