Sixty sharks and sixty surfers but no-one's budging
Authorities have expressed concern following the refusal of surfers to return to shore despite repeated warnings there were up to 60 bull sharks feeding nearby.
The encounter took place yesterday at Ballina’s Light House Beach, on the NSW North Coast, a notorious stretch of beach which has seen a number of shark attacks in recent times.
In April 2008, 16-year-old Peter Edmonds was killed by a bull shark while body boarding at Lighthouse Beach. In February 2015, Japanese surfer Tadashi Nakahara was killed by a great white shark at adjacent Shelly Beach.
“I’ve never seen anything like it, nowhere close,” Surf Life Saving duty officer Garry Meredith told 9News.com.au.
“Usually you get one shark sighting. Fifty or sixty is just unheard of.”
But despite sounding the alarm for a second time yesterday at around midday, Mr Meredith said a large number of surfers refused to leave the water – choosing instead to keep surfing the exceptional conditions.
“The majority of the time they will heed the advice … but ultimately they have to make their own decision,” Mr Meredith said.
Local Ballina Shire Council mayor David Wright told 9News.com.au his office, the NSW Department of Primary Industries, and police had been united in their decision to close the beach.
“When the helicopter came over there were 60 bull sharks near the mouth of the river, the siren sounded but the surfers didn’t leave the water,” Mayor Wright said.
“The Department of Primary Industries (DPI) helicopter was quite concerned with the size and number of them. Around 60 young bull sharks between 1.5 – 2 metres.”
Ultimately, two inflatable rescue boats and a third vessel were launched to create a protective barrier between the surfers and the feeding sharks.
While this method isn’t always effective, Mr Meredith said thankfully this time it kept enough distance between the sharks and the surfers.
After a recent spike in shark attacks in 2018, there was reignited debate about how to best tackle the risks posed.
In a report published yesterday in local paper the Northern Star, Mr Wright Initially called the surfers “selfish” for their decision to stay in the water, but later softened his view.
“I know how important it is, some of the people just want to surf,” he said.
The Mayor has commended ongoing upgrades to the technology they now use to monitor the waters as being some of the most comprehensive in the world.
“There is nothing more that can be done,” Mayor Write said.
“Smart drum lines are out and we have the best surveillance in the world.”
He said the council was considering ways it could continue shark surveillance past the official end of the surf season.
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