Sharks put bite into swimming
A BUNDABERG fisherman fears for the safety of swimmers in the Burnett River after an increasing number of bull shark sightings in recent weeks.
Stephen Walsh is a regular angler on the river and has noticed the aggressive species is out and about.
He has called for more signage near boat ramps and at popular spots along the Burnett River to help prevent attacks and warn locals of the possible danger.
"It would be horrible if a child was bitten and I hadn't said anything," he said.
Mr Walsh and his 19-year-old daughter Hannah were fishing for threadfin salmon near the Bundaberg Port area last Friday at 6am when Hannah's catch was attacked by a marauding bull shark.
As she brought the fish to the side of the boat, Mr Walsh said a large bull shark measuring almost 2m in length approached and severed the struggling salmon just behind the gills.
"It would have taken three seconds and all I had was that fish head," Mr Walsh said.
Mr Walsh said he spotted swimmers nearby, and was alarmed the young men were oblivious to the dangers the river presented.
"It could do serious damage, it could easily take a piece out of a child's side," he said.
Mr Walsh claims he has regularly spotted bull sharks in the river, and said he even saw one on a fishing trip early yesterday morning.
There have also been reports that bull sharks have been spotted above the weir, near Sandy Hook and have been caught in high numbers at Baffle Creek.
Tackle World Bundaberg manager Ben Shorten said it was "definitely not unusual" for bull shark sightings at this time of year.
"They usually cruise with shovelnose sharks," he said.
Mr Shorten said sharks were most active during the summer months, mainly due to an increase in bait fish.
"It's when the sharks seem to be more active, migrate and breed," he said.
Mr Shorten said bull shark numbers weren't big 10 or 15 years ago, but the influx of larger fish due to last year's flooding may have brought them back into the rivers.
Surf Life Saving Queensland Wide Bay Capricorn regional manager Craig Holden stated that although he does not have direct knowledge of bull shark numbers in the Burnett, he did say they had a presence off the Bundaberg region's beaches.
Mr Holden confirmed Mon Repos had about six beach closures in the past week due to shark sightings although the species of shark could not be confirmed.
"We advise people to swim at patrolled beaches and to swim between the flags, where lifeguards watch for sharks," Holden said.
He also reiterated that swimming in rivers like the Burnett was not recommended, not only for the possibility of shark attacks but because of dangerous currents.
A Maritime Safety Queensland spokesman echoed Mr Holden's message, urging people "not to swim in artificial canals and lakes or estuaries over the summer period especially after heavy rainfall, as bull shark activity increases around these times".
"Always swim on patrolled beaches and between the flags and don't swim alone."