Saturday, December 29, 2007

Great White shark sighting not uncommon near Australian beaches

AMAZING pictures of a white pointer shark frolicking off a NSW beach have emerged - as an endangered pregnant grey nurse shark was killed in nets off Bondi.

Meanwhile holidaymakers have been warned of a surge in shark activity over the holidays.
The NSW National Parks Association warned beachgoers to expect more shark sightings - as shown by the incredible pictures of a Great White chasing fish at Stockton beach, Newcastle.
"There's always a record number of sightings at this time of year ... and it's when the school fish go up the coast and the sharks follow them," a spokeswoman said.

"There are probably more people in the water now and school fish and sharks are coming in closer to coastal areas, particularly off beaches."

On Wednesday a surfer near Newcastle survived a bite on his right buttock, becoming the third person in NSW to have a brush with a shark in two months.

However the Bondi discovery brought no fear, just sadness.

Lifeguards patrolling the north end of the beach on jet skis saw the 3m shark's upturned fin floating limply.

The find has enraged conservationists, who claim the "archaic" use of shark nets is devastating marine life.

Producer of Channel 10 show Bondi Rescue, Martin Baker, was one of the first to see the shark being untangled. He described seeing the carcass being hoisted out of the water.

"As it was lifted up onto the boat, you could see its full size - it was as least as big as I was," Mr Baker said.

"Everyone is gutted that it was a grey nurse shark."

The death of the fish known as the labrador of the sea due to its placid nature is a blow to attempts to save it from extinction on the east coast.

It is feared that as few as 400 of the sharks remain around Sydney after decades of hunting in the mistaken belief that they were man eaters.

Despite having been listed as a protected species in 1984, the future of the grey nurse in the region hangs in the balance - 93 were killed last year.

The latest death has renewed calls for the nets to be replaced by more environmentally friendly deterrents, such as electrical pulses.

Contractors aboard the net maintenance boat Sea Rogue infuriated shark conservationists by dumping the remains out to sea.

"It is an absolute disaster for something like this to happen, because it has a massive impact on our grey nurse shark breeding program," said Claudette Rechtorik, of the Sydney Aquarium Conservation Fund.

"The species takes up to eight years to reproduce, so to lose a mother and pup like this is devastating."

The Department of Primary Industries, which oversees the management of the nets, said samples were taken before the fish was dumped.

Meanwhile, there are fears a five-year-old ban on salmon fishing north of Barrenjoey is attracting sharks.

Port Stephens fisherman George Trinkler has seen shark numbers "explode" north of Newcastle, near where Ben Morcom was attacked.

He has photographed great whites preying on fish less than 100m from shore, in water less than waist-deep.

Mr Trinkler said the Government needed to take immediate precautions, such as putting up warning signs.


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