Surprise catch: this bull shark was released after it was caught in the Richmond River at Pimlico.
Surprise catch: this bull shark was released after it was caught in the Richmond River at Pimlico. Cathy Adams

Warning: You're not safe from sharks in the river

CHOOSING to swim in the river rather than the ocean may not be the best choice when it comes to avoiding sharks.

A recent report of a small 1.52m bull shark caught at Pimlico, 5km south of Ballina showed how prolific the species is across salt and freshwater.

Bull sharks can grow to 3.4m in length and weight up 340kg and are recognised as the only widely distributed shark species known to remain in fresh water for long periods of time to feed and breed and sometimes give birth in river mouths where the young will live for up to five years.

Also known as the River Shark, Freshwater Whaler and Estuary Whaler, this tenacious species can be recognised by its stout body, short blunt snout, a second dorsal fin is grey above and pale below, sometimes with a pale stripe on the flank.

In Australia the Bull Shark occurs from south-western, Western Australia, around the northern coastline and down the east coast to the central coast of New South Wales.

As omnivores, bull sharks consume fish, other sharks, dolphins, turtles, birds, molluscs, echinoderms and even terrestrial mammals including cattle, people, dogs and rats.

It is an aggressive species may be found in murky water, where the splashing of a swimmer could be mistaken for a struggling fish.

Ballina Lighthouse and Lismore Surf Life Saving Club president Craig Nowlan said people should utilise beaches where they are protected by patrols.

"Our patrols are vigilant and we have increased the levels of surveillance on the beach to ensure the safety of beach-goers," he said.

"While daily lifeguard services ceased at the end of the end of the school holidays, patrols will resume during the school breaks every day and on weekend volunteer patrol continue until Anzac Day."



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