Monday, March 06, 2006

The great white shark population is on the rise in Australian region.

Whyalla has recorded the highest number of great white shark sightings around the Eyre Peninsula since the White Sharks Count project was launched in 2005.

Seven white pointers have been sighted off of Whyalla.

The first was spotted in October with the most recent spotting on January this year only 1km off shore.

The seven Whyalla sightings were also the largest sharks spotted in the Eyre Peninsula count.
The largest shark was estimated to be nearly seven metres long (17 to 20 feet).

In October 2005 a four metre long (14 feet) shark came as close as 200m from the jetty and another at the foreshore sandbar the same size in the same month.

The most sightings were recorded in October with three in Whyalla and one at Cowell, Point Drummond and Coffin Bay.

A total of 26 great white sharks were sighted in the Eyre Peninsula during the year - the next greatest number of sightings in Thevenard with three sharks spotted early last year.

So far this year seven sharks have been spotted, five in January, including two in Whyalla and two in February.

The Conservation Council's White Sharks Count project aims to increase knowledge of white shark movements and identify "hot spots" and was launched to the public in October last year, however records for the project date back to February 2005.

The White Sharks Count project has been set up as a network of local contacts across the region, so that people can report sightings to within their own town or area.

Conservation Council Marina programs manager Chris Ball said so far the project had been a "huge success".

"Clearly we need much more information over an extended period of time to be able to get a really good picture, but his has been a fantastic start," Mr Ball said.

Mr Ball said some of the sightings could have been the same shark, but the project was more about trying to identify where the sharks were rather how many there were.

Whyalla White Sharks Count contact person Paul Mazourek said he did not think there were more sharks in the area now - rather just that people were reporting sightings.

"In my opinion we don't really have increased numbers (of sharks) in the water here," Mr Mazourek said.

"But because of this increased interest in this species people actually think that there's more sharks."

Nor did Mr Mazourek believe the higher sighting numbers meant there were more sharks around Whyalla than Port Lincoln.

"There are more down in Port Lincoln - they have a different marine environment in general.

"Port Lincoln have got an open water environment while we have a closed sea environment ... it dictates the conditions down here."


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