Update 3pm: Lifeguards have renewed their plea not to swim at Ballina beaches following Monday’s fatal shark attack.
Australian Lifeguard service (ALS) advised media this afternoon that beaches across the shire will remain closed for the remaincer of the day with conditions to be reassessed on Thursday morning.
A decision to reopen Lennox Head Main Beach, the only beach currently patrolled by the ALS in Ballina shire, has been postponed due to dangerous surf conditions.
Following Monday’s fatal shark attack at Shelly Beach, Ballina lifeguards have been assisting NSW Police and other emergency services in keeping Ballina’s beaches clear whilst attempts to locate the shark were undertaken.
These unsuccessful efforts were abandoned on Tuesday evening after a period of 48 hours without a confirmed sighting. There have been some reports of shark sightings by members of the public but none have been confirmed by on-scene assets.
NSW ALS co-ordinator Brent Manieri said the decision to delay the re-opening of the beach was made in the interest of safety.
‘The decision to open a beach after a major incident involves a large number of stakeholders, and although the conditions are not as rough as they have been in recent weeks we felt conditions were still adverse enough to keep Lennox closed for at least the next 24 hours.
Mr Manieri also said that lifeguards will continue to work with NSW Police and other emergency agencies as required, and urged the public to report suspected shark sightings to lifeguards and lifesavers.
‘The co-operation with other emergency services is an important factor in the work we do, and we have seen the benefits of these strong relationships throughout this tragic incident.’
‘We are urging people to remain out of the water for the next 24 hours due to the conditions across Ballina Shire and once beaches reopen to choose a patrolled location where lifeguards are constantly surveying the conditions,’ he said.
Original report: A marine ecologist has warned surfers to stay out of the water as authorities continue to search for a great white shark that killed a man on Monday morning.
Southern Cross University researcher Daniel Burcher said warm water and runoff from rainfall was attracting small fish, which were in turn attracting sharks closer to the shoreline.
The warning comes after 41-year-old Tadashi Nakahara was killed by a shark that tore his legs off at Shelly Beach, near Ballina.
It was Australia’s fourth fatal shark attack in five months.
Dr Bucher says recent rainfall meant food for fish was washed out from rivers to the ocean, drawing them in.
‘Don’t swim if you know there are plenty of baitfish around, especially if they are breaking the surface,’ he said on Tuesday.
‘It usually means something is chasing them from below.’
Dr Bucher said dusk and dawn were notorious for shark activity and also warned swimmers to avoid river mouths and stormwater drains after rain.
Shark expert Vic Hislop said heavy fishing was thinning out the ocean, leading sharks to hunt for food close to shore.
‘I’ve seen them change their diet … as we’ve thinned out all the fish. They’ve changed to dolphins, turtle, dugong,’ he said.
‘They won’t stop eating. They’ll just change their diet when the fish get thinned out.’
‘They’re coming in closer,’ he told Southern Cross Austereo.
Ballina mayor David Wright said one surfer had recognised the shark threat on Sunday evening and got out of the water.
‘He said he got out because there were baitfish, there were lots of fish going close to the edge of the water and sharks actually feed on that,’ he told ABC Radio on Tuesday.
The surfers who were with Mr Nakahara said the shark was three to four metres long.
‘It came up behind and took his board and his legs,’ he said.
Rescuers took Mr Nakahara to shore and performed CPR but he died on the beach.
Meanwhile, the various authorities involved in searching for the shark are meeting this morning to assess surf and beach conditions.