SHARKS are being drawn to Old Woman Island by an increase in turtle numbers, with one diver witnessing the moment of attack right in front of him.
In the past two weeks Phil Burke of Mudjimba has also seen a 14-foot tiger shark cruising hard in on the island's northern reef.
The island is also a magnet for surfers and snorkelers with many paddling the 1.5km from the beach at Mudjimba.
The former catcher for Underwater World in Sydney, before moving to the Sunshine Coast in the late 1980s to help set up Underwater World at Mooloolaba, said he was surfing the island's right-hand break when he saw a turtle apparently 'going over the falls' at a shallow break called The Ledge, popular with body boarders.
Mr Burke said the incident two weeks ago was unusual, so he paddled towards it until he realised what he was looking at was half a turtle.
In the next moment the remains were snatched from in front of him by what appeared to be a shark.
The following week the keen surfer, who also spends considerable time cleaning up invasive weeds and debris on the island, was stunned when a huge tiger shark he thought to be 14-15 feet long loomed up just 30m from dry rock.
"I paddled in as close as possible until I could no longer see the shadow,” Mr Burke said.
"It was easily twice as long as me. I've seen them there before but not for the past four or five months.”
He said a recent survey by divers had in two hours recorded 35 different large turtles in the waters around the island.
"It's meals on wheels for the sharks,” Mr Burke laughed.
Shark researcher Dr Jonathan Werry of Ocean and Coast Research agreed.
Dr Werry, who runs a program tagging and tracking the movement of sharks in Sunshine Coast waters, said tiger sharks were a prominent predator of marine turtles.
"Attacks on turtles by tiger sharks are quite common,” he said.
He is less certain if any increase in the whale migration iss drawing more sharks to the region, saying the growth in both populations was a consequence of greater protection.
"There is not necessarily any correlation,” Dr Werry said.
"Obviously though if there are more whales there will be deaths and therefore more carcasses available for sharks.”
Large numbers of humpback whales are moving their way back south as part of their annual migration after birthing calves in the warmer waters of Hervey Bay and points further north.
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