Croc One Log

October 2005 - Sharks in the Gulf of Carpentaria

We love sharks!
We love sharks!

October was the month for some very, very different research for my family, Wes, the Croc One crew and me. We conducted some very rigorous and toothy shark research in the Gulf of Carpentaria, which is the huge expanse of water between the most northern tip of Australia - the Torres Strait Islands - and the Northern Territory. This place is absolutely loaded with sharks, and illegal shark fisherman from south-east Asia poaching our sharks.

The barbaric slaughter of at least 100 million sharks per year is the result of a rising demand for shark fins and products pushing many species to the brink of extinction.

Croc One is the ultimate shark research vessel, with her massive marlin board (now known as the ‘Shark Board’) and huge lower deck working area. The capture and release of sharks is adrenaline-pumping and physically demanding. Each and every shark has to be hauled on board, identified, measured, photographed and released quickly, placing the least amount of stress on the sharks as possible.

One of the biggest honours for me on this research project was sharing the exhilaration of working with sharks, with my family – Terri, Bindi, Bob and my mates, Wes and Mick.

We had an absolute blast!

One night while steaming just off the coastline between the Torres Strait and Weipa at Vrylia Point, we nearly ran into an Indonesian longliner. As per our instructions from the Australian Customs and the brilliant Coastwatch Campaign, we immediately fired up our satellite phone and gave them all the details. By midnight they were still hauling in their illegal longline so we continued on our way. We were very excited to see the customs plane the next morning responding to our call. Despite customs catching these illegal fishing vessels, they just keep coming at an alarming rate. The entire coastline is absolutely littered with thousands of discarded nets called ‘ghost nets’.

These horrendous floating death traps kill long after they’ve been discarded, until they eventually wash up on the beach.

Ghost nets litter the western Cape’s beach.   These nets are death traps from the moment they’re thrown overboard and discarded.

Ghost nets litter the western Cape’s beach.

  These nets are death traps from the moment they’re thrown overboard and discarded.
We also caught a lot of little cute ones   Here is a list of the most commonly identified species-

Spot-tail Shark
Carcharhinus sorrah
School Shark
Galeorhinus galeus
Black-tip Reef Shark
Carcharhinus melanopterus
Bull Shark
Carcharhinus leucas
Milk Shark
Rhizoprionodon acutus
Bronze Whaler Shark
Carcharbinus obscurus
Silky Sharks
Carcharhinus falciformis
Tawny Shark
Nebrius ferrugineus
We also caught a lot of little cute ones    
We aim for Croc One to become a premier shark research vessel. All of the knowledge she helps us to gain will help the long-term survival of an apex predator that is currently being fished into extinction. As their numbers are depleted, all of the marine wildlife will suffer, even the animals we know and love like whales, dolphins and turtles.