Shark sightings on the rise!
SWIMMERS beware - shark sightings have reached record highs with more expected this summer.
There were 171 shark alarms in NSW in 2005/06 compared with 124 in 2004/05, figures from Surf Life Saving NSW show.
The data also reveals more sharks were sighted last summer off Sydney beaches since shark-sighting records have been kept.
Alarms rose from 47 to 80 across all Sydney metropolitan beaches in the 12 months to the end of June.
In Sydney, north of the harbour, shark sightings went from 28 to 35, while south of Port Jackson, they more than doubled from 19 to 45. Nationally sightings increased from 290 in 2004/05 to 377 in 2005/06.
And more sharks are expected to be sighted as water temperatures rise and large schools of migrating fish such as Australian salmon, swim along the coast.
John West, curator of the Australian Shark Attack File, said shark numbers were tied to the food source and the more food there was, the more animals would be feeding on it.
"But you have more chance dying on your way to the beach than from a shark attack. Having said that, swimming in dirty, murky water at dawn or dusk is probably not a good thing to do," Mr West said.
Anglers who soak large baits off the Sydney beaches after dark in search of prized jewfish have encountered more sharks lately than any other fish.
Local fishing guide Craig McGill said he regularly tangled with whaler and hammerhead sharks in summer in the harbour, while tiger and great white sharks travel just off the coast.
From tomorrow Sydney's coast will be patrolled by a new shark-spotting service called SurfWatch with the state announcing funding for more helicopter and power-ski patrols.
Surf Life Saving NSW communications officer Brett Moore said the new equipment and pre-existing rescue boats would be used to shepherd the sharks back out to sea.
"Our role as surf lifesavers is to patrol the beaches and protect the people. And in the ocean, there will be shark sightings," Mr Moore said.
Typically the sharks that inhabit the surf are metre-long whaler sharks, but in past summers bull sharks to more than two metres in length have been seen chasing fish around the Heads.
In 1999, a three-metre bull shark was netted by commercial fishers off Grotto Point in Middle Harbour and in just a few metres of water.
The great white is a protected species in NSW waters, but last summer, anglers landed numerous baby great white sharks off Stockton Beach, just north of Newcastle, in what appears to be a breeding ground.
But the incidence of shark attacks remains low, with seven to eight cases for an average of 1.1 fatalities a year around more than 27,000 kilometres of Australian coastline.
The latest shark fatality was in January when 21-year-old Sarah Whiley was mauled at North Stradbroke Island in south-east Queensland.
That death prompted a shark summit in April that has resulted in the NSW Government announcing it will increase shark patrols this summer.