skip to content
Government of Western Australia - Department of Fisheries
Wednesday 18 August 2021

Fishing licence fees help find ways to reduce shark bite-offs

    • ​Deterrent devices for fishing lines reduced shark depredation by almost two-thirds
    • Research found sharks arrive within 15-30 minutes of fishing commencing, so moving spots regularly will also help decrease shark bite-offs
    • First-of-its-kind study funded by WA recreational licence fees

Fisheries Minister Don Punch today announced some of the early findings from recent Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) research which found some deterrent devices are effective in reducing shark depredation. The research was funded by recreational licence fees.

The three deterrent devices tested did not stop shark depredation occurring in each instance but the probability of fish lost to sharks was significantly lower when deterrents were used.

The effectiveness of the deterrents was also influenced by the number of competing sharks.

Scientists from DPIRD began the study by seeking feedback from fishers through a phone and online survey. Results of that survey indicated that the main way anglers avoided bite-offs was by moving fishing spots or simply pausing fishing.

The survey also revealed fishers mitigate shark bite-offs by employing mitigation measures such as rapid retrieval, heavier fishing line, electric reels, avoiding the use of burley or baits and not dumping fish offal. This is the first study to document the different methods fishers are using.

Researchers chose waters off Exmouth and the Montebello Islands to test the devices, not only because they are important recreational fishing destinations but because north-west Western Australia has reported increasing occurrences of shark depredation in the past 10 years.

Three devices - the magnetic Sharkbanz (or Sentry), electronic Ocean Guardian (Fish01) and acoustic SharkStopper - were tested against a control of using no deterrents, with cameras attached to the fishing lines to capture the underwater action.

  A sliteye shark attempting to depredate a black snapper

The probability of sharks taking fish was reduced by 65 per cent when using deterrents compared to when not using those deterrents. Footage of large cod biting fish from lines was also captured. 

Comments attributed to Fisheries Minister Don Punch:

"The McGowan Government is committed to creating safe, accessible, sustainable and enjoyable fishing experiences for all Western Australians.

"Recreational licence fees, which are invested back into the sector, fund projects like this to improve recreational fishing in Western Australia. 

"Conclusions from the scientists indicated deterrent devices were effective in cutting shark depredation rates, but that rate reduced when multiple sharks were competing for catch on the fisher lines, so shifting fishing spots regularly was another simple way to reduce bite-offs.

"I congratulate the DPIRD researchers who worked on the program, led by Doctors Peter Coulson and Gary Jackson. They put recreational licence fees to work to help all of WA's fishers with valuable information to take home more catches."

Minister's office - 6552 6900

Last modified: 18/08/2021 3:41 PM

wa.gov.au

© All contents copyright Government of Western Australia. All rights reserved. ABN: 18 951 343 745

Copyright

© This work is copyright. You may display, print or reproduce this material only in an unaltered format for your personal or non-commercial use, or for use within your organisation. Apart from any use permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, all other rights are reserved.

Disclaimer

The information and advice provided by the Department of Fisheries website is made in good faith and is from sources believed to be reliable and accurate at the time of release onto the website. Changes in circumstances after a document is placed on the website may affect the accuracy of the information. Full disclaimer details are available at www.fish.wa.gov.au.