Deadly sharks are so abundant people catch them off balconies

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 April, 2007, 12:00am

A species of deadly shark has become so numerous in Australia that locals are catching them by dangling a line from apartment balconies and back gardens.

Amateur anglers along the creeks and canals of the Gold Coast in Queensland have caught three-metre-long Bull sharks with nothing more sophisticated than a pork chop taken from the barbecue and attached to a hook.

The 'high-rise hunters' are snaring three or four a night as they watch television, play pool and drink beer.

It may rank as some of the easiest game fishing in the world, but there are fears that the holiday destination's growing popularity will result in fatalities as more people come into contact with the highly aggressive predators.

Beau Martin and Bob Purcell were killed by bull sharks as they swam in the brackish canals in the suburb of Burleigh Heads in 2003 and last year Sarah Whiley was mauled to death off nearby Stradbroke Island. Bull sharks are at home in salt and fresh water.

'There are thousands upon thousands of them,' said Paul Burt, The Bulletin daily's fishing expert. 'You could catch 10 a night if you wanted to. They're unpredictable bastards - they'll bite your boat, chew your engine. They're a nutcase of a shark.'

People catch them as they're cooking their snags [sausages] and prawns on the barbie. It's very ocker, very Aussie.'

The region's sub-tropical climate, outdoors lifestyle and sparkling marinas have made south-east Queensland the fastest growing region in Australia, attracting thousands of newcomers from overpriced Sydney and inclement Melbourne.

The Gold Coast, south of Brisbane, consists of a spaghetti tangle of artificial lakes and canals, with apartment blocks and villas backing onto the water in suburbs such as Miami, Paradise Point, Mermaid Waters and Isle of Capri.

Many locals do not even bother with a boat. Robert Hughes, 26, has caught a dozen sharks from his sixth floor balcony in between playing video games and watching television.

As soon as a shark is hooked, a friend races down the stairs of the apartment block and hooks it with a gaff. 'We literally sit in the lounge room with the rods set up and play the PlayStation, waiting for the bites,' Mr Hughes told The Bulletin.

When he hears the ratcheting sound of the line playing out, he sprints down the lawn and grabs the rod. 'It's definitely lazy man's fishing,' said the 24-year-old architecture student. 'People think fishing requires lots of patience but we watch movies while we're waiting.

'My mum doesn't like it much because I keep breaking vases and things as I run through the living room to the jetty. The reel takes off at about 100km/h - it's a huge adrenaline rush.'

Fisheries officials say there are no plans to cull the sharks and that the inhabitants of the Gold Coast must simply learn to live with the potential maneaters.

'There have been calls to eradicate the animal but they have as much right to be in the water as we do,' said Jeff Krause, district manager of the Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol. 'A cull would be massively expensive and in any case, if you kill some, others will take their place. We just have to learn to co-habit with bull sharks.'