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South West Marine life images by Ian Wiese – Series #2 Sharks and other predators

In this post I will attempt to boost the SDS hit rate by including the keyword “Shark”. Over the years I haven’t had much success photographing sharks. They usually swim on the bottom, and as I have since found out are rather shy – at least the bronze whalers are. That’s the good news!

First never believe the story that if you see dolphins there won’t be any sharks around. This is a shot of what is probably a large whaler such as a dusky whale. I’m guessing he is 3-4m long and is swimming with a pod of dolphins. I didn’t notice him until I got home and looked at the photo on my computer.

Image #1 large shark swimming with a pod of dolphins at Sandpatches. Ian Wiese pic.

This year I was using a drone to follow the salmon schools and found I had discovered one way to photograph sharks. Another way is to be on the beach when commercial netting operations are underway. The sharks were following the salmon and the netting operations brought some of them in close to the shore at Smith’s Beach. Often the sharks were so close in they showed in the face of oncoming waves just a few meters out.

Image #2. Shark feeding on salmon close to shore at Smiths Beach. Ian Wiese pic.

Images #3. Shark feeding on salmon close to shore at Smith’s Beach. Ian Wiese pic.

Images #4. Shark feeding on salmon close to shore at Smith’s Beach. Ian Wiese pic.

Images #5. Shark feeding on salmon close to shore at Smith’s Beach. Ian Wiese pic.

About 90% of the sharks I saw following the salmon were bronze whalers, and 10% tiger sharks. The good news is that in all cases where a bronze whaler approached someone, they turned away when around 10m away. They appear to be very shy. The following photo shows a bronze whaler approaching an unsuspecting tourist at Bunker Bay with his 2yo child in his arms. The shark swam out to sea and back again to avoid the tourist.

At Bunker Bay this year there were up to 150-200 fishermen each day catching and releasing salmon, and schools of salmon coming past often every 20 minutes of so. The steady stream of exhausted and injured salmon meant easy prey for sharks and for most of the salmon season we could see with a drone up to 8 sharks at a time in Bunker Bay. If you don’t want to swim with sharks it is best to avoid surfing in the area at this time.

Images #6. Drone image of Bronze Whaler passing tourist with child in the shallows at Bunker Bay. Ian Wiese pic.

The bronze whalers can be quite beautiful – in the sun the brilliant copper colouring stands out. The next image is a bronze whaler in the surf at Wyadup.

Images #7. Bronze Whaler in the shallows at Wyadup. Ian Wiese pic.

Images #8. Bronze Whaler in the shallows at Wyadup. Ian Wiese pic.

The following images are my “Monet” interpretation sharks at Wyadup.

Images #9. Bronze Whaler images at Wyadup. Ian Wiese pic.

The next image shows a salmon fisherman a bit too keen to get his lure out to a school of salmon. There is a bronze whaler on the back of the wave directly under his lure. The shark was probably following the same school.

Image #10 Salmon fisherman vs shark at Wyadup. Ian Wiese pic.

For a change here is a tiger shark, shot from a drone.

Images #11. Drone image of Tiger shark at Bunker Bay. Ian Wiese pic.

Finally here are a couple of nasty predators. They are 2-3m long and were harassing dolphins at Sandpatches, stealing the fish they were rounding up. They are extremely fast, making the dolphins look slow. I have been told they are a “Hartail” or Trichiurius lepturus. Nasty pieces of work. The dreadlocks (strings of “rope” hanging down from the neck area) are probably just water running off – a quirk of the shutter speed.

The WA museum’s Curator of Fishes made the following quote regarding the Hairtale.

“Largehead Hairtail Trichiurus lepturus occur all around Australia and in all tropical and temperate seas of the world, although it is probably a complex of multiple species that are yet to be described. There are a few other known species also, including in WA.  They are not so common in the south.  We sometimes get contacted by members of the public either catching one or finding one on the beach. They grow to around 1.2m and generally live in very deep water (to 350 or 400m), but the adults apparently have a DVM [diurnal(daily) vertical migration] that is opposite to most deepsea fishes – that is, they come to the surface to hunt during the day and stay deep at night.  Interestingly, the juveniles and small adults have the opposite DVM (surface at night, deep during day).  Large adults feed on any pelagic prey – anchovies, sardines, trevally, barracuda, whitebait, squid and even juvenile tuna and other hairtails.  From what little I know, they sometimes enter estuaries in early to mid winter.”

I can assure him they grow to well over 2m!

Images #12. “Hairtail” or Trichiurius lepturus harassing dolphins at Sandpatches. Ian Wiese pic.

As a result of these photos I was recently invited to make a submission to the Senate Inquiry into the efficacy and regulation of shark mitigation and deterrent measures. The main focus of my submission was Bunker Bay during the salmon migration. A friend and I flew drones almost daily at Bunker Bay and we were constantly seeing up to 8 bronze whalers along the beach, normally close in to the shore break. The helicopter reported a fraction of the numbers we saw. This is hardly surprising as we were observing for several hours a day. My concern was that tourists were unaware of the sharks and often let their children swim in the shore break without realising they could be within metres of sharks. I pointed out that once a shark was sighted and reported on the Sharksmart web site, there was no one responsible for any further management of the situation. My submission (including recommendations can be downloaded from the Senate Inquiry web site – My submission is submission 72.

In 2016 I went out to the Cape Naturaliste Seal colony every fortnight for 12 months and photographed the seals. I used the photographs to count the seals and was able to produce this graph of the way the numbers fluctuate during the year.

The data went to Curtin University, and will be the subject of a paper documenting the way in which the seals haul out of the water at Cape Naturaliste.

Image #13. 2016 Cape Naturaliste Seal Colony statistics courtesy of Ian Wiese.

In August 2016 there were nearly 250 seals, so many in fact that the colony split and roughly half moved to the rocky point at Point Marchant (ie near Shelley Cove). By December the numbers had dropped to just over 30 and there were 5-10 pups born just after Xmas.

This information was not previously available and little research had been done on the colony previously. As great white sharks are known to target seal colonies I have included this graph in the SDS blog as it is read by surfers who can use it to be better informed about the risks through the year.

Click on this link to view or purchase Ian’s prints Ian Wiese’s Photography blog.

Click on this link to view Ian’s South West Marine life images by Ian Wiese – Series #1 Dolphins

Coming soon South West Marine life images by Ian Wiese – Series #3 Whales

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