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Marine park fishing bans are music to a shark's ears

by Mark Rothfield on 10 Oct 2012
Sharks - Mossel Bay, South Africa Ben Gladwell http://www.sail-world.com/nz
A neighbour of mine tells a tale, after a dozen or so ales, about a sleepless and defenceless night he once spent camping in a South African game park.

A bar scuffle had necessitated a hasty exit from town the following dawn, and the obliging driver turned out to be the other combatant’s mate, who then dumped the hapless hitchhiker in no-man’s land.

As night fell, all that separated my neighbour from a pride of man-eating lions was a thin layer of tent material. Armed with little more than cutlery, he could only look out a flap and pray.

I get a similar feeling occasionally when I swim in deep water off the back of a boat. Alarm and alertness roll into one all-pervading sense of dread, to a symphony of Jaws music echoing in my head.

News that my home port of Lake Macquarie NSW is now teeming with sharks has ramped up the volume to 11 out of 10. There’s little consolation in the fact it’s a sign of improved habitat, and that we’re being exhorted to feel sorry for the big fish, whose numbers have been diminishing.

You wouldn’t approach a wild lion without a rifle, yet we go swimming and water skiing with juicy limbs and torsos displayed like carcasses at the butchers.

The sharks are loving the fact that commercial fishing was banned on the Lake, laughing at us with big toothy grins. Not for them the remote depths of the continental shelf when they can bask in the balmy waters surrounding the local power station and graze on the fish stocks the authorities are apparently trying to restore.

This is bull shark nirvana, with the nearest fish nets being those worn on hen’s nights at the RSL. Bulls, I’ve read, are responsible for numerous deaths in India and feed on corpses in the Ganges.

They could do more harm to tourism than Pauline Hanson. Worse, they could end water skiing as we know it, which I guess would be icing on the cake for the environment lobbyists.

This is the tip of the iceberg, with the Federal Government already trumpeting its ambition to create over 40 new marine parks encircling the nation … while at the same time denying Australians the right to go boating and fishing.

I’m not a scientist nor a fishing expert, certainly not a rampant greenie, but the Lake Macquarie scenario suggests that if we don’t catch and eat the fish, the bloody sharks will. And that’s no bull …

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