Docile Bottom Dweller or Wannbe Killer?

Surely the laid-back Wobbegong isn’t dangerous, or is it?

Personally, I have caught several in my past years of fishing the reefs, and I’ve come to learn that they are perhaps suicidal if anything (let me explain).

If you’ve ever captured one of these, you are probably fishing the bottom of the reef. You might have even felt bites that seem like a standard (small) fish. However, suddenly you’re on! And it’s heavy! You start to wonder if you’ve just got a snag and are pulling up a large lump of coral. It’s coming in, but it’s not moving. It seems as if it is either unaware they’ve been caught, or, they realised and simply gave up on life. “Ok, I’m going to die, so what, bring it on then.”

Once you have it on board, “yippee”! You discover it was a shark who just didn’t care. They won’t even put up a fight when you remove the hook from its mouth. They are beautiful creatures in my opinion. I don’t know how people can kill them or eat them. I hope I never get that hungry!

But, are they the docile bottom dwellers that we think? No. I’ve heard and read about several shark ‘attacks’ caused by the Wobbegong. Here’s to name a few:

  • A 12-year-old boy was being bitten on the foot by a wobbegong shark while swimming at a beach in Byron Bay in northern New South Wales.
  • A surfer in Sydney was thought to be attacked by a great white, only to find out the attacker as the usually docile, bottom-dwelling wobbegong.
  • And another Sydney man, aged 46 was attacked while teaching his son to surf.
  • Even the future pro surfer Kirra-Belle’s morning session turned to horror in a shark attack which had everyone talking, but was later confirmed by NSW Fisheries to be that of a ­normally docile wobbegong.
  • On the SUNSHINE Coast, a high school teacher needed surgery after being bitten by a wobbegong shark.

Surely, though, in all these instances, it was a case of mistaken identity, and that the wobbegong was just wanting to play.

Information below from Queensland Fisheries website: Link here

Wobbegongs are small to large (up to 300 cm) bottom-dwelling sharks characterised by a flattened head and body, numerous dermal lobes around the head and elaborate colouration.

  • The tasselled wobbegong has a dense tassel of dermal lobes around the head. Blotches form a complex mosaic pattern.
  • The spotted wobbegong has dark saddles superimposed and bordered by white rings and blotches.
  • A smaller species, the northern wobbegong has three large pale-edged, dark blotches along the back and dark bands under each dorsal fin and above the anal fin.
  • The banded wobbegong has dark saddles with white rings and blotches highlighted by black edges. There are two supraocular knobs above the eyes and four to six dermal lobes at the preocular group.
  • The ornate wobbegong is similar to the banded wobbegong but smaller, more freckled and lacking supraocular knobs. There are three (rarely four) dermal lobes at the preocular group.

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