A fisherman refuses to go in the same waters that a surfer was mauled in because he knows just how infested the ocean is with killer sharks.
Whenever Joel Merchant goes fishing at Tweed Heads, on the New South Wales border, the 39-year-old fisherman sees droves of great white sharks.
After working in the waters for 20 years Mr Merchant now refuses to go swimming in the same area Nick Slater was killed on Tuesday, citing a massive increase in shark numbers.
Whenever Joel Merchant goes fishing at Tweed Heads, on the New South Wales border, the 39-year-old fisherman sees droves of great white sharks
Mr Merchant, along with other fishermen, have claimed great white shark numbers have increased rapidly in recent times
Nick Slater (pictured) was killed by a shark at Greenmount Beach on the Gold Coast on Tuesday
Mr Slater’s death is the first fatal shark attack in the region since 1958.
‘I see way too much. There’s definitely no shortage of great whites, we see them all the time and we never saw them before,’ he told The Daily Telegraph.
‘When I set for shark lines now, the majority are eaten by other sharks before I get them on board.’
Mr Merchant said that up to 20 years ago there was ‘too much pressure on the shark population’ which meant in 2009 restrictions were brought in.
After more than ten years of minimal shark fishing, the waters are filled with the deadly predators.
‘People don’t fish for them anymore and the amount of sharks out there now is out of control,’ the fisherman said.
After more than ten years of minimal shark fishing, the waters are filled with the deadly predators (Mr Merchant pictured with a shark that had been attacked by a bigger creature)
Yamba-based commercial fisherman Adrian Cottee posted pictures of dozens of sharks scrambling near his trawler off Tweed Heads
Mr Merchant is posing with a three metre long tiger shark but all that was left was the head after it was attacked by a bigger beast
Mr Merchant said all the sharks in the water seem healthy and always have enough food but since they’ve been left alone they are ‘now thriving’.
‘The chance of interacting with a shark is more and more because there are so many of them.’
Mr Merchant, along with other fishermen in the area, often post on social media when they only catch half a shark or see something bizarre in the water.
Yamba-based commercial fisherman Adrian Cottee posted pictures of dozens of sharks scrambling near his trawler off Tweed Heads.
‘We are working off Tweed Heads NSW at the moment and I see this every night,’ he wrote.
‘We actually had to leave the Tweed area two years ago because the sharks were eating the net and everything would fall out. There’s certainly big numbers of sharks out there.’
Mr Slater had been surfing at nearby Greenmount Beach on the Gold Coast on Tuesday afternoon when he was viciously attacked by a monster great white shark.
The 46-year-old longboarder was among at least 40 surfers in the water when he was bitten on the leg and later succumbed to his injuries on the beach.
Longboard rider Nick Slater, 46, was mauled to death by a shark on the Gold Coast on Tuesday
The tooth left embedded in Mr Slater’s surfboard has been taken away for analysis to find out what kind of shark attacked him
Bond University shark expert Daryl McPhee said Mr Slater’s position at the bottom of the sandbank away from other surfers made him vulnerable.
A large school of bait fish in the water was another factor heightening the danger, he said, but more importantly was the time of day.
‘Bites can occur any time during the day but you can expect an increase in shark activity at dusk and dawn,’ Dr McPhee told Gold Coast Bulletin.
While those factors contributed to the attack, he said Mr Slater was also the victim of ‘exceptionally bad luck’.
While local fishermen believe the number of great white sharks have increased, Dr McPhee said all evidence of shark numbers is anecdotal.
Surf cameras captured the moment Mr Slater was killed by a great white shark at a netted Gold Coast beach in the first fatal attack in the region since 1958
Shark expert Daryl McPhee (pictured) said there were three factors that made Mr Slater a target
No data on the number of sharks was collected before they became a protected species, so there is no way to determine whether numbers have actually increased.
‘When we protected white sharks, we didn’t know how many were there so there was no baseline for recovery,’ Dr McPhee said.
‘When someone says ‘sharks are protected, therefore the numbers have gone up’, we don’t know whether they’ve gone up.’
Since Mr Slater’s tragic death it was revealed that the 57km coastline is only protected by 2km of nets, sparking fears beachgoers are not as safe in the water as they once thought.
Early analysis of a tooth lodged in Mr Slater’s longboard has suggested the 46-year-old was killed by a 3.5m great white shark.
Coastalwatch footage captured the moment a surfer brought the injured man to shore with the help of other beachgoers