SHARK WATCH: Police officer Nicole Parker keeps a close eye on Byron Bays Main Beach after the reported sighting of a mako sha
SHARK WATCH: Police officer Nicole Parker keeps a close eye on Byron Bays Main Beach after the reported sighting of a mako sha

Shark sightings give us the jitters

By RACHEL AFFLICK rachel.afflick@northernstar.com.au AN ALARMING number of shark sightings in recent weeks has North Coast beach-goers wondering how safe a swim in the surf really is.

There have been more than 30 shark sightings in the past month alone, and several attacks this year.

However, experts are saying that short of staying out of the water, there is little we can do about it.

Southern Cross University marine biology lecturer Daniel Bucher says cold water could be the reason so many sharks are invading our territory and coming into dangerously close contact with beach-goers.

He said cool ocean currents were attracting schools of fish into shallower waters, and the sharks were following.

It means local beaches are expected to remain 'sharky' until currents warm up next month.

"It's just a case of local conditions," Dr Bucher said.

"The presence of sharks is an indication of a healthy ecosystem. It means there's lots of food available in the area."

But the situation has some locals worried it's only a matter of time before another person is attacked.

Byron Bay angler Ken Thurlow fears beach-goers are not taking warnings about sharks seriously enough.

He said out on boats it was clear the water was rife with sharks.

"People over the years have dropped their guard about sharks being friendly. Actually, they aren't," he said.

"The things we see at sea, sharks attacking whole schools of fish and whales, it is just horrific. People have to realise when they go into the sharks' domain they may suffer some kind of injury."

Mr Thurlow said the problem was people either weren't aware of the dangers, or just chose to ignore them.

However, famed shark filmmaker Valerie Taylor, based in Sydney, said there was too much hysteria over sharks.

She said every year it was common, as summer began, for coastal communities to go into a panic over shark sightings.

"I've heard people screaming out 'shark', and I've looked and it's been a dolphin," she said.

"Shark attacks are an incredibly rare event. You're more likely to be hit by a car on the way to the beach."

The last fatal shark attack on the North Coast was at Julian Rocks at Byron Bay in 1993, which involved a great white shark.



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