1 February 2023

Pro fisherman says sharks are 'cruising around our beaches like tadpoles'

| Katrina Condie
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A great white shark pictured off the Sapphire Coast. Photo: Trapman.

A Bermagui-based professional fisherman says, with a noticeable increase in shark numbers, he’s surprised there hasn’t been a serious attack on the South Coast.

Jason ”Trapman” Moyce has been fishing off the Sapphire Coast for 13 years and says each year he has seen more sharks, and larger specimens, in our waterways and near local beaches.

“There’s no way I’d go in the ocean at dusk or dawn on the South Coast nowadays,” he said.

“I used to do a lot of diving and surfing, but I probably wouldn’t go in unless the water was crystal clear.”

Jason said that over the summer months, he had seen larger tiger sharks, great whites and huge schools of bronze whalers almost daily while fishing for sharks and trapping lobsters. Recently he saw seven great whites in one day.

“With the amount of sharks in the water, I’m surprised there’s not more attacks,” he said.

Trapman’s social media accounts are filled with shark images and videos that have been sent in by his 200,000-plus followers, but he also manages to snap photos of sharks that approach his boat.

In the past month, he’s posted photos and videos of two hammerhead sharks in Narooma’s Wagonga Inlet and a great white bumping a boat near Durras, north of Batemans Bay.

“I see a lot of hammerheads because they cruise on the surface,” he said.

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“The one at Narooma was a smallish one, but you definitely can get great hammerheads – the big 12 to 14-footers (3.6-metre to 4.2m) in estuaries. They are designed to eat fish and stingrays, so there’s no need to worry too much about them.”

Just last week, Jason was fishing off Bermagui when a “pretty aggressive” 12 to 14-foot great white bumped his boat and then “vanished”.

His mate was fishing for gummy sharks when his catch was eaten by a 16-foot (4.8m) great white off Eden.

“It’s not uncommon to see sharks in the waterways, and there’s been a lot around Montague Island as well. I see people diving with the seals just metres away from where I’m fishing,” Jason said.

“I have seen some huge packs of hundreds of bronze whalers, all around 100 kilos.

“We’re seeing a lot of juvenile sharks and big mammas out there, especially in autumn, which is an indication that Australia’s shark management system is working.”

This year he’s seen more tiger sharks than usual, while tagged tigers and great whites have been spotted almost daily at local beaches including Malua Bay and Mollymook, where swimmers were evacuated from the water.

“I think they’ve got thicker every year. We’re seeing tigers all year round and I’ve never seen that before – and I’ve been on the water around 200 days per year for the past 30 years on the coast and in Sydney,” he said.

“Most commercial fishermen I know are finding it hard to land sharks because they’re being eaten by other, larger sharks.

“I’ve seen some five or six-metre ones around Sydney – one looked like a truck.

‘The numbers are getting bigger and bigger and it’s 100 per cent because of Australia’s very smart management.”

More sharks are being tagged, so more are being detected by the 21 listening stations along the coast from Tweed Heads to Merimbula.

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The Department of Primary Industries uses fin-mounted satellite tags and surgically inserted acoustic tags to track great white and tiger sharks and some have travelled from Sydney to the south coast in fewer than two days.

While he believes numbers are on the rise, Jason says, at the same time, more animals are being “pinged” by the listening stations and spotted by surf lifesaving drones.

“Drones have opened up people’s eyes to what’s always been out there,” Jason explained.

“Sharks are cruising around our beaches like tadpoles.”

While most sharks would only attack a person in a case of mistaken identity, he said the very large sharks, around five or six metres, had the potential to be “man-eaters”.

“There’s definitely some big animals out there and, once they get to that size, they’re mammal eaters only, usually seals, but they can mistake divers for seals. I see people jumping in the water with seals every day around here – it’s crazy.

“If you get bitten by a 14-foot shark, it’s not going to leave a little hickey on you, that’s for sure.”

Just last week, a 19-year-old diver was decapitated by a shark off the west coast of Mexico, while a dolphin was killed by a pack of bull sharks off Manly beach the week before.

Jason started his Trapman blog a few years ago to show people what commercial fishermen do and to educate them about the industry.

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