50 years of diving pictures by an Australian expert
“The public’s attitude toward sharks has changed over the years, from hostility in the old days, to fascination during the Jaws craze in the 1970s, to interest and growing affection nowadays.
After hundreds of generations of fearing sharks and wanting to kill them, perhaps we’re beginning to appreciate them for the magnificent animals they are”.** \\Peter Benchley\\**
Correction.The Australian attitude toward sharks in the Jaws era was more than fascination.
There was absolute fear of the ocean waters, a consequence that lasted years and perhaps had some impact on grey nurse vanishing temporarily while the shark jaw craze was in full swing.
The hatred was for all sharks, with a demand for jaws that pushed prices to seemingly ridiculous new highs.
Peter Benchley was to become a marine spokesperson. He learned much about sharks **since writing** the fictional Jaws. He passed away in 2006 from a lung-related problem.
At Jervis Bay New South Wales, fishermen caught a single Grey Nurse shark (not protected at the time) and many wobbegongs. This evidence remained underwater not exactly out of sight to any diver.
Probably not a good idea to get too close to the front end of a resting Wobbegong or Carpet Shark. They have a fast snapping ability and have been known to bite spear fisherman free divers.
After holding for a few seconds they cough in order to take a bigger bite – this is the time to get free. Too much struggling beforehand results in a worse injury.
Teeth are pointed, and finger-like, similar to the grey nurse and remotely similar with a mako (blue pointer). Injuries would therefore be punctures. Any ripping would be caused by the person’s own struggles.
Wobbegong sharks have become less common – especially large one’s.
Desperate-for-income professional lobster fishermen have been targeting them.
Wobbegong could be given a form of protection soon.
It’s ironic that rock lobster seek crevices and caves to be as close as possible to wobbegong sharks.
Octopus seek lobster, wobbegong eat the octopus. It’s an interesting cycle.
Remove too many wobbegong from the sea and octopus eat more rock lobster!
Remove any one of the three and the remainders suffer. East coast lobster were first to go into serious decline.
The wobbegong flesh is the highest grade of shark (\\flake\\) and lacks the euric-acid aroma of other sharks ‘meat’. I would not eat it, but many do who are not fussy and want a ‘fish’ without bones.
The white fillets are of similar cost to most ‘B’ grade whole fish prices, about $15-18 per kilo at today’s prices.
Free divers with .303 power heads experimented on fish as well as sharks, an embarrassment today.
First 12 gauge shotgun power head appeared in 1963
Twelve gauge shotgun powerhead built by Keith White was tested near Sydney’s South Head, by members of the Bondi or Eastern Suburbs spear fishing club affiliated with the USFA of NSW.
The wobbegong (carpet shark) pictured, is a very large specimen – used by commercial fishermen today to replace the declining stock of better quality table fish.
Grey Nurse sharks were to become the next target as the 1960′s fear of sharks was replaced by a desire to master this often termed fear of the unknown.
An unknown number of sharks (the estimates grow each year) were killed by skindivers until 1972, by then Grey Nurse were hard to find anywhere except in aquariums such as Marineland, Manly.
In 1988 the Grey Nurse sharks made a sudden and amazing return to the locations where they had been formerly hunted. One hundred sharks where previously just two or three may have existed.
The same cannot be said for wobbegong sharks. The decline in their numbers, due to set line fishing, would have effected rock lobster populations as the carpet sharks feed on octopus which prey upon the lobsters. An interesting cycle.
Pictured: (The late) Brian Davies at work under Sugarloaf Point lighthouse.
The link between lobster (crayfish) and wobbegong sharks is interesting. They both shelter in prefered rocky crevices for safety. The main enemy of the lobster is octopus which ‘suck the living flesh’ from within the lobster’s hard protective shell.
A favorite food of the Wobbegong shark is octopus. It was a relationship from heaven for Wobbegong and lobster to live close to one another. ‘Wobbies’ got to eat ‘occies’ (who were seeking lobster) and the ‘lobster’ did well out of it.
But, lobster were targeted by ‘starving’ fishermen because of their increasing value linked to a decreasing supply.
At the critical point a few years ago, the lobster supply was critical. What happens next?
The value of shark meat increases, especially the white-fleshed Wobbegong fillets. It then became worthwhile for lobster fishermen to market Wobbegong shark.
This decline in Wobbegong shark must be good news for the octopus, who will eat whatever lobster are left! The situation gets worse.
Expect the price of eastern rock lobster to rise even further.
Extendable text. Movietone News black and white archival library movie film of Wobbegong shark(held by tail) biting man’s arm; (text only) ‘more divers bittten by this species than by any other shark’; 35mm transparencies of Wobbegong fins, heads and tails underwater (including a Grey Nurse head).