Tourists weren’t the only ones to visit the Shoalhaven’s beaches over the Christmas break, with warm waters leading to more than 80 shark sightings in the region over the past two-and-a-half weeks.
During the summer holidays, the Department of Primary Industries increases its aerial patrols, to monitor the safety of swimmers by logging shark sightings on the NSW coastline.
On December 22, the NSW DPI shark helicopter began monitoring the South Coast region, and since then, there haven been 83 large shark sightings on Shoalhaven beaches. While that number sounds like a lot, a DPI spokesperson said it was “too early” to tell whether the number of sightings was higher than usual.
NSW DPI does not have the authority to close beaches when a shark has been sighted, however there were 18 cases where the sharks were close enough to Shoalhaven bathers and surfers to initiate a beach evacuation.
Spotting sharks on the South Coast can at times be difficult, due to the “green” tinge the water has, according to a DPI spokesperson.
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“Sharks are very difficult to distinguish to species level from the air, especially in more ‘green’ water such as that found in large portions of the area flown between Moruya and Wollongong,” they said.
However, shark spotters have been able to distinguish which sharks are more commonly seen in Shoalhaven around this time of year. According to the DPI, juvenile white sharks have been spotted most over the past couple of weeks.
“Of the large [2m and over] potentially dangerous sharks identified to species level, juvenile white sharks were the most frequently seen, especially in the Sussex Inlet, Bherwerre area,” the spokesperson said.
“This is a known aggregation site for juvenile white sharks, as identified by CSIRO satellite tracking of juvenile white sharks over the years, and does not represent a new ‘threat’.”
Since December 22, hammerhead and whaler sharks have also been spotted on beaches including Hyams, Greenfield, Collingwood and Wairo.
Through the DPI’s shark tagging program, which is estimated to be the largest in the world, scientists are increasing their knowledge about the movement and ecology of white, tiger, and bull sharks on the NSW coastline.
“The NSW Government is continuing its efforts to increase its knowledge about movement and ecology of [sharks], and trials of technologies to shark reduce risk of shark bites through detection using drones and helicopters and interception using SMART drumlines,” the spokesperson said.