Shark alert: aerial patrol spots 46

The Bendigo Bank Aerial Patrol has recorded 46 shark sightings near popular swimming spots stretching from Stanwell Park to Mollymook so far this season.

The total number of sharks spotted is likely to be much higher however, as aerial patrol volunteers only record sharks seen near swimmers or surfers.

Most sharks were spotted in the southern Illawarra, from Port Kembla south.

General manager of the Bendigo Bank Aerial Patrol Harry Mitchell said the season so far had been unusual as there had been fewer hammerhead sharks than normal.

‘‘Most summers we would see a majority of hammerheads across the coastline because ... they’re easy to identify,’’ he said.

‘‘We’ve seen fewer hammerheads this year than in previous years.’’

Mr Mitchell said the largest group of sharks observed consisted of seven animals.

The Bendigo Bank Aerial Patrol will continue to operate in the Illawarra until Easter.

The NSW Department of Primary Industries operates shark nets along the coast, including several between Wollongong South Beach and Coledale.

The most recent dataavailable – from September 1, 2012 to April 30, 2013 recorded a total of 15 target and non-target species entangled in Illawarra nets, the majority of which were non-target species.

Target species caught included one 1.7-metre great white, caught at Coledale on January 7, 2013, and one 2.14-metre tiger shark (released alive) caught at South Wollongong on December 27, 2012.

Three bronze whaler sharks, one dusky whaler and one broadnose sevengill shark were caught during the same period.

Non-target species caught included one grey nurse shark (released alive), six hammerhead sharks and one Australian angelshark.

The Bendigo Bank Aerial Patrol is funded through community donations.

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