SHARK GIRL. Madison 'Madi' Stewart
SHARK GIRL. Madison 'Madi' Stewart Contributed

Shark girl says North Coast shark situation "not normal”

BYRON Bay "shark girl" Madison Stewart has canned Premier Mike Baird's decision to trial nets on the North Coast, arguing that they will achieve nothing.

"I disagree with his decision, (but) it's not necessarily because of the marine life deaths that are going to occur," Ms Stewart said.

"It's because the main goal of any government right now should be to protect people... and the nets are not going to do that.

"They are not going to stop the attacks, they are not going to stop the type of sharks that are hurting people, and they are not the answer.

"Nets don't stop great whites."

Ms Stewart, who has gained a social media following swimming with tiger sharks and great whites without cages, warned the best way for people to avoid attacks right now was to simply stay out of the water or drive north to the Gold Coast.

"I understand that people don't want to do that, but it's kind of crazy that people are still going in the water and still getting bitten after everything that's happened," she said.

"If (not), they should be really aware of how high risk it is to go in the water right now."

The 20-year-old conservationist said the shark situation around Ballina right now was "not normal".

"There is something bringing them to Ballina right now... no matter what we do, people are going to be at risk," she said.

She said surfers were in the "front line of dangerous interactions with sharks" because they were sitting on a board in the hunting zone of a great white.

She also described juvenile great whites - the ones spotted commonly around Ballina - as the "P-platers of the ocean".

"They're learning how to move from large fish to small mammals, and they're still making mistakes," she said.

"That's why people are probably getting attacked... they're learning and they're making mistakes on people.

"(But) I don't think it's a permanent thing."

Shark Girl's theory on shark numbers

 

Madison Stewart with a Caribbean reef shark in 'tonic immobility' in a scene from the TV documentary Shark Girl. Supplied by ABC TV publicity. Please credit photo to Andy Casagrande.
Madison Stewart with a Caribbean reef shark in 'tonic immobility' in a scene from the TV documentary Shark Girl. Supplied by ABC TV publicity. Please credit photo to Andy Casagrande. Andy Casagrande

"Around the time the attacks started, we had that huge influx of bait balls," she said.

Some of those bait fish were blue pilchards, which were almost wiped out in the late 1990s after the influx of a foreign disease.

"This is the first time we've seen blue pilchards in really large numbers again, which means they've bounced back," Ms Stewart said.

"Whenever a species does a bounce back like that, it comes in over the sustainable amount, so there's just basically a huge feeding frenzy going on."

"That's basically what brought the sharks around."

Shark nets on the Gold Coast

Ms Stewart said it was a myth that nets on the Gold Coast stopped attacks because there had in fact been 30 bites on netted beaches since the late 1960s.

"The only reason people haven't heard of them is because they haven't turned into fatalities, and that's because every single beach that is shark netted on the Gold Coast has an on-duty lifeguard at all times monitoring people," she said.

"So the paramedic response is a lot quicker, people don't die from blood loss."

"It's not necessarily because the nets are there... it's because the lifeguards are there."



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