LETTER: Sharks? Pff, I'll still dive

NO amount of sensational reporting of sharks will keep me out of the water.

As some surfers and beachgoers fall victim to the media-generated fear of the great white, I can't wait to go on my regular Sunday dive at Byron Bay's Julian Rocks.

Not even a recent Channel 9 report of a "marauding monster lurking in the deep" at Byron's Wategos Beach, prevented me from diving the next day.

The call for a cull from LeBa surfers is extremely disappointing.

Of all people, I would have thought they had a deep appreciation of the role sharks, as apex predators, play in maintaining a healthy ocean.

Sure, we need to be taking positive action to minimise the risks of an attack or encounter.

However, it's the presence of sharks that draws me to my favourite dive site.

As a recreational scuba diver, there is nothing more exciting than being in the presence of these maligned but magnificent creatures.

In the past few months, I have not been disappointed, the cooler water attracting big numbers of grey nurse sharks to the bay, a species that was almost driven to extinction because of its unfounded reputation as a "man-eater".

Julian Rocks is a five-minute boat ride from Byron Bay, and is revered by divers as one of the best diving locations in Australia.

With more than 600 species of fish documented at the site, every dive brings a new experience.

It is rare not to see sharks on a dive, predominately grey nurses in winter, making way for the leopard sharks in summer.

And lots of other sharks, among them three species of the colourfully-marked wobbegongs, blind and colclough sharks, and on occasions hammerhead, bull, mako and great whites.

Staying out of their way, preferably on the ocean floor, and remaining calm, will result in some of the most rewarding moments a diver can experience.

Of course, there is a risk in diving when great whites are around.

Before my backward roll into the water, I momentarily reflect on the possibility of something going wrong, but that "on-the-edge" sensation makes me more aware of any number of possible dangers, and increases the thrill of the diving experience.

Anyone, divers, surfers, swimmers, who venture into the ocean is taking a risk, not just from the creatures who belong in it, but also from currents, tides, waves, and rocks and humans, among many other things.

There is no easy answer to the recent spate of incidents along our coastline, but killing great whites is not the solution.

What will killing one or more sharks achieve?

Will surviving sharks spread the word they need to stay away from our northern coastline or will we just keep killing them until there are none left?

Killing sharks may make people feel safer, but the risks of going into the ocean will always remain. Be aware of the risks, and enjoy.

*Andrew Niewenhof is a Northern Star reader from Lennox Head. 


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