Shovelnoses join charity paddlers
DOZENS of shovelnose sharks kept hundreds of surfers on their proverbial toes during Byron Bay’s Australia Day Charity Paddle on Tuesday.
Witnesses said the shovelnoses, also known as shovelnose rays, appeared more perturbed by the paddlers for a change, as 450 competitors collectively splashed and paddled their way from Wategos to Main Beach.
Lifeguards in two inflatable rescue boats and a jet ski monitored the shovelnoses and other sharks, attempting to herd them out to sea, but they appeared determined to hug the bank by The Pass.
Ben Bennink, editor ofinbyrontoday.com, watched with his trusty telephoto lens from the lookout at The Pass.
“They were behaving weirdly,” he said.
“As the boats tried to herd them out they’d whip back under and dart back to the bank.”
According to Mr Bennink, the phenomenon started about 45 minutes before the paddle kicked off and continued as the pack of paddlers rounded The Pass from Wategos.
“I’ve never seen anything like it before,” he said.
“We counted about 15 sharks, some up to three metres long, cruising really slowly about 100 metres apart. There were mostly grey sharks with a few black ones.
“The clubbies (lifesavers) were on to it, as was one of the dive boats, and I think I saw George Greenough out there in his little jet boat keeping an eye on things.”
Byron Bay resident Yvonne Pendergast was watching from the lookout.
“They were swimming from Brookes Reef out past the point rock at The Pass and a few of the paddlers noticed them,” she said.
An eight-year-old girl who spoke to The Northern Star as she finished the challenge said she got a fright seeing a large grey shape under her board.
Northern NSW Lifeguard coordinator Scott McCartney said the sharks could have been chasing bait fish, but agreed the 450 paddlers might have worried them more.
“It sounds like it was mostly shovelnose sharks, which don’t usually bother humans, but there might have been a few reef sharks,” he said.
Mr McCartney also reminded swimmers to take care as most weekday holiday patrols ceased from yesterday.
Patrols will continue at Byron Main Beach, Lennox Head and Lighthouse Beach.