Dr Bonnie Holmes with a 3.1m tiger shark
Dr Bonnie Holmes with a 3.1m tiger shark

Shark researcher dives into study off Rainbow Beach

A SHARK researcher conducting a study off the Rainbow Beach coast said the region could provide new insights into the behaviour of critically endangered species.

New University of the Sunshine Coast marine biologist Dr Bonnie Holmes is involved in a national collab­orative research study into the movement and behaviour of large ocean predators including tiger and hammerhead sharks.

"The Wide Bay region has some of the most productive waters in Australia right on our doorstep, but surprisingly little is known about the seasonal trends of certain species, or how they use the local habitats to feed and breed," Dr Holmes said.

Studies on Great Hammerhead sharks found off the coast of Rainbow Beach will inform a national research study. Picture: Discovery Channel
Studies on Great Hammerhead sharks found off the coast of Rainbow Beach will inform a national research study. Picture: Discovery Channel

Sharks preying on fish caught on lines by recreational fishers was also a topical issue, and she plans to identify what species are responsible for these activities in waters off Hervey Bay and Bundaberg.

"These predators are extremely important to the ecology of the ocean, and the more we know about them, the greater steps we can take to protect shark species all while ensuring viable commercial and recreational fishing opportunities," Dr Holmes said.

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"As tiger sharks are sometimes responsible for bites on humans, it's also important to gain a better understanding of where and when they are most likely to encounter people in the water, to encourage responsible ocean use and swimmer safety.

Hammerhead sharks were another key focus for Dr Holmes and her research students.

"They are even less understood, and I'm interested in the movements and habitat use by scalloped and great hammerheads in Hervey Bay, along with smooth hammerheads in warm temperate waters off New South Wales, " Dr Holmes said.

Dr Holmes fixes a dorsal fin-mounted tag to a tiger shark.
Dr Holmes fixes a dorsal fin-mounted tag to a tiger shark.

"Investigating the impacts of fishing on these species is imperative, especially given that great and scalloped hammerheads are now listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

"Sharks are incredible, yet our knowledge of their movements and behaviours is limited, and they are also challenging to study which makes finding discoveries about them all the more exciting," she said.

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