Australia

Shark researcher warns against lazy fishing practices

“Theyre either ignorant, or theyre arrogant – either way, its creating incredible risks that will lead to disaster.”

Dunsborough resident Blair Ranford has had a passionate plea for responsible fishing practices heard around the world this week after a video he created on a South West beach went viral on social media.

In the video, Mr Ranford demonstrates how fish carcasses left to bleed and rot on the beach can attract sharks to some of the States most popular swimming and surfing spots.

Blair Ranford shows the carcasses discovered on Injidup Beach, hours after the second shark attack in the South West.

“Weve just had two shark attacks a couple of days ago – yesterday we had a 3-and-a-half metre white shark off Injidup Beach here,” he explains.

“And what do we have here this morning? Weve got fishermen who have caught a wobbegong shark and left it here.”

As the vision pans to another salmon carcass on the beach, Mr Ranford explains that the filleted fish have been discarded, blood washing into the water.

“Guess what is just on the other side of this rock wall right now? A great white shark, at one of the most popular surf spots in the South West.

“Seriously people – its time to start being responsible with your activities around the coast.

“Dont leave this stuff on the beach. Put it in a bin. Bury it up the top.”

Speaking to the Mail this week, Mr Ranford said he had no problem with fishing and did not wish to single out any one type of angler but that the issue became a matter of safety during salmon season.

“You get your weekend fishermen who come down here for the salmon and theres 200 to 300 salmon a day being brought in here along the beach, theres frames in the water and bleeding right into the ocean, just around the corner from Meelup Beach right before school holidays.”

The long time Dunsborough resident said more than a decade of shark research – specifically white sharks – as well as being a surfer and diver had given him an understanding of how the animals behaved and why they were coming in close to shore.

“The answer is simple, its right there on the beach, theres blood in the water and at a time of year when there are huge numbers of salmon and sharks passing by our coast, were basically waving a red flag saying come over here fellas theres food to be had.”

At the time, Yallingup residents Bill Mitchell and Michael Bibby told the Mail that salmon fishing was attracting sharks closer to shore than they would usually venture.

"They cut the fish and blood ended up in the water which created a frenzy in the sharks it is totally irresponsible, it is just not on," Mr Mitchell said.

He said when roadworks took place contractors were required to hire lollipop men as part of road management safety and duty of care for the public.

"Let me tell you, this is far more dangerous then trimming peppermint trees on the side of the road" he said.

"Duty of care responsibilities have not come into this practice even on Sundays when nippers were taking place."

"It has gradually been banned around the coast but Smiths Beach was not zoned tourism then and hoards of people were not swimming at the beach.

"Times have changed."

At Injidup, you have the perfect storm – tons of fish, lots of blood and bits of fish floating in the water and then you have these lone surfers out there looking for a quiet wave. Its only a matter of time, as weve seen this week.

Blair Ranford

Mr Ranford admitted it was a difficult issue to police, with the vast and remote coastline providing plenty of opportunity for anglers to leave fish carcasses and bleed catches unencumbered.

“At Injidup, you have the perfect storm – tons of fish, lots of blood and bits of fish floating in the water and then you have these lone surfers out there looking for a quiet wave. Its only a matter of time, as weve seen this week.”

A spokesperson for Fisheries WA said the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development advised all anglers to fish responsibly.

“Fishers should bleed their catch away from the waters edge and dispose of all fish waste (including bait and salmon frames) in a responsible way, to ensure beach areas are kept clean and avoid attracting larger marine predators such as sharks, seals and dolphins,” the spokesperson said.

For Mr Ranford, the issue is just one of the reasons why South West beaches are becoming increasingly unsafe for oceangoers.

“Im not anti fishing in the slightest, I have no problems with fishing at all,” he said.

“I just wish people would go that little bit of an extra mile to put their fish in the bins provided, or bury the frames, and just think about what theyre putting back into the ocean for the kids or the family that are going to come down here next and jump in the water.

“Youre putting people at risk… its got to stop.”

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Margaret River Mail

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