Shaws Bay at Ballina.
Shaws Bay at Ballina.

Ballina 'shark' sighting stirs up rumours from the depths

RUMOURS are circulating that a metre-long 'shark' has been spotted at a popular Ballina swimming spot.

Brian Mullens shared his concern of seeing what he thought was a "small shark" in Shaws Bay on the Ballina Community Notice Board Facebook page.

"I don't want to cause alarm but has anybody seen a small shark in Shaws Bay?" he posted.

"I was on my morning walk when I noticed a 'fish' swimming slow and just under the water near the caravan park. I could see what looked like a fin just protruding out of the water.

"It stayed like that for about two minutes. It looked about one metre long. It was difficult to take a photo because of the sun reflection in the water.

"He swam around in circles as he slowly moved to the deeper part of the Bay. I watched it for a few minutes to assure myself I wasn't seeing things".

Shauna Geoghegan commented on the post, asking if it looked like a shovelnose ray in a photo.

Mr Mullens replied: "Similar... but it didn't have the large fins on its sides at the front."

Crystal Lea Wharton further commented, saying: "I've heard of people catching them off the wall and throwing them in there... not sure if it's 100 percent true or not."

Ballina Shire Council's Manager of Open Spaces and Resource Recovery, Cheyne Willebrands, said council has had no reports of shark sightings in Shaws Bay.

"There is a known cod that is old and large (over 1m) that inhabits the Bay," Mr Willebrands said.

"This cod is known to be territorial and in the past members of the public have mistaken it for a shark. There has also been previous reports of a known shovel nose ray, which could also be mistaken for a shark.

"Sharks cannot enter the Bay as it's an enclosed waterway.

"Ballina Shire Council continues to monitor the Bay and works closely with Department of Primary Industries DPI NSW to ensure the popular location is safe for our community."

Earlier this year, The Northern Star reported on the issue after rumours that a juvenile bull shark had been released into the bay.and several sightings of a presumed shark from snorkelers and regular walkers earlier this year,

The sightings were confirmed to be a resident shovelnose ray aka as a gutairfish or banjo fish.

These harmless creatures grow to 1.2m and they might resemble a shark, but this is where the similarity ends.

Their diet consists of prawns, crabs and other crustaceans, as well as fishes and molluscs.

In 2015 The Northern Star reported on a spate of sightings of a "shark" in Shaws Bay.

The council received a number of reports and police even considered closing the bay and asking the council to erect warning signs.

At the time, Richmond Local Area Command Inspector Bill McKenna said the move was prompted by a report of a shark sighting late in the day.

"In consultation with council, Fisheries NSW, and Surf Life Saving (Far North Coast), a decision was made to conduct an inspection of the bay at first light the next morning," Inspector McKenna said.

"The inspection of the bay didn't reveal anything untoward, and the bay remained open."



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