Research / Predator-Human Interactions
Human interactions with predators can be positive and negative. An example of positive interaction is tourism, which allows people to see species in the wild and often results in socio-economic benefits that can contribute to the conservation of species or ecosystems. Negative interactions can be direct (e.g. animals biting people) or indirect (e.g. when a predator consumes a fish caught by fishing gear or livestock from farmers), and can bear consequences for humans and predators. Our work in this field has led to a number of publications reviewing predator-human interactions.
BOF is proud to showcase the work of its research collaborators. Current projects and publications of our research collaborators include the works featured on this page.
Whitsundays prevalence and behaviour of sharks
Shark depredation in Queensland fisheries
Effectiveness of commercially available personal electric shark deterrents on tiger sharks
Research into the prevalence, movements and behaviour of sharks around North West Island
Wildlife tourism is a growing industry that often involves feeding (provisioning) wildlife to increase the chances of viewing animals up close. Prior to launching and into the early years of BOF, our researchers worked extensively on shark tourism. Our projects were run in conjunction with tourism operators and collaborators, to assess the impacts that years of feeding might have on the long-term behaviour and health of sharks that frequent tourism sites.
Human-wildlife conflicts occur in a wide range of settings globally, often leading to negative outcomes for both humans and wildlife. Conflicts that involve predator species such as sharks, that can cause human fatalities or severe injuries, are particularly complex issues, that lead to disproportionate media coverage, drawing public interest and often escalating public concerns. Although the probability of a shark biting a human is extremely low, the frequency of shark bites has increased in some regions. Since 2018, in response to shark bite incidents, BOF has been commissioned by the Queensland Government to investigate the prevalence and behaviour of sharks at locations where shark bites occurred. BOF has also been working with Southern Shark Ecology Group testing shark repellents on tiger sharks.
Depredation, where a predator (e.g. a shark, cetacean, pinniped, seabird, squid, large teleost) partially or completely consumes a fish caught in fishing gear, before it can be retrieved to the fishing vessel. Shark depredation occurs in many fisheries around Australia (and the world), leading to economic (loss fishing gear and catch), social (e.g. reduced quality of fishing experience, conflict between stakeholders) and biological impacts (increased mortality of the target species, and injury and bycatch of sharks). Because of its widespread occurrence and impacts, there is increasing concern about shark depredation from fishers across all sectors, fishery managers, researchers, and environmental stakeholders. A key issue, and ongoing debate among stakeholders, is the question whether the perceived increase in depredation is driven by increases in shark abundance, or is a result of changes in sharks’ behaviour (e.g. sharks residing at heavily fished sites or following boats).
Although possibly a combination of both and likely other factors, for most regions there is a lack of empirical data to inform on this issue. BOF and collaborators are currently undertaking preliminary research to quantify depredation rates and identify the species of sharks responsible for depredation in Queensland. This includes using genetic techniques and camera experiments to identify depredating species. In collaboration with fishing charter operators, initial information on depredation rates is being recorded. In addition, an App for fishers to report depredation is currently being rolled out in Queensland.
Interactions with Fisheries
Sharks and rays interact with fisheries in several ways. They can be targeted as a food source or caught as bycatch in fisheries targeting other species. They can compete with fisheries for common food sources, but also control numbers of other species (e.g. seals) that compete with fisheries.