Surfers at Tallow Beach, south of Byron Bay, didn’t seem to notice this small shark (circled) swimming in their midst.
Surfers at Tallow Beach, south of Byron Bay, didn’t seem to notice this small shark (circled) swimming in their midst. David Nielsen

Sharing the surf with hunters

SURFERS and swimmers should keep their cool this summer as shark sightings are expected toincrease, says aerial shark patrol pilot Peter Coulter.

Mr Coulter, of Angourie, said the sightings would increase with the mullet season approaching.

“There is going to be more food in the water for sharks, therefore it is likely that I will be seeing more sharks,” the gyrocopter pilot said.

A recent flight taken by Northern Star photographer David Nielsen showed sharks swimming close to surfers and swimmers at local beaches.

However, Mr Coulter said there was definitely no need to panic because the sharks seemed mostly uninterested in humans.

“Humans seem to be at the very bottom of the food chain for sharks and because the water is getting clearer sharks can identify their food better,” he said.

Mr Coulter flies his gyrocopter from Yamba to Tyagarah most Saturdays and Sundays to keep an eye out for sharks in densely-populated swimming and surfing areas from Ballina to Byron Bay.

“Nine times out of 10 when I go around the Cape at Byron Bay I will spot a shark. I see big packs of sharks along the open stretches of beaches,” he said.

Shark Patrol marketing director Craig Crooks said the initiative was launched because there was no platform for aerial shark observation.

“There is the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter, but they are only used in life or death situations. We have seen a positive response from surf lifesavers about working in conjunction with us to make the waters in this area safer for swimmers,” he said.

Mr Crooks said he was hoping the community supported the shark patrol initiative.



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