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April 17, 2021

Shark sightings force Ballina beach closures

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A shark spotted recently in Ballina waters. Photo Twitter/ Channel 9
A shark spotted recently in Ballina waters. Photo Twitter/ Channel 9

Darren Coyne

Ballina Shire Council will appeal to politicians on Friday to help fund measures to prevent further shark attacks in local waters.

Ballina mayor David Wright said the council was not in a position to continue funding aerial surveillance but said it was an important part of the strategy to prevent further attacks.

Cr Wright spoke with Echonetdaily following the closure of Ballina’s beaches yesterday after a large shark was spotted at Angels Beach, cruising about 50 metres out to sea in a gutter between the break and the shoreline.

Pilot Tyler Boyd, right, from Evans Head and his best school mate buddy Blake Penhey from Alstonville.
Pilot Tyler Boyd, right, from Evans Head and his best school mate buddy Blake Penhey from Alstonville.

The shark was spotted by young pilot Tyler Boyd and his mate Blake Penhey.

After calling 000 from the Cessna to alert authorities they spotted another shark at Tallows Beach. Another 000 call was made scrambling authorities.

Their sightings were posted on a new community Facebook page called Ballina Shark Reports, which has attracted more than 2000 ‘likes’ since being launched 13 days ago.

The Facebook site is described as a community driven initiative to prevent shark attacks, and was established by East Ballina man, Daniel Webber.

Mr Webber told Echonetdaily he was surfing with mates about 150 metres from where Matt Lee was savaged by a shark recently.

‘We heard the sirens but there was no indication that anything was out of the ordinary,’ he said.

‘I was left wondering why wasn’t someone saying clear the water (after the attack on Mr Lee).’

Mr Webber said he hoped the Ballina Shark Reports page would serve as an interim measure until police introduced an SMS warning system.

Meanwhile, Cr Wright said it was believed that large numbers of baitfish had attracted the large sharks to the area.

‘The baitfish are in really close and the Great White on Saturday was right in the breakers,’ he said.

‘But the protocol we have put in place last week is working. When people call 000 the police and lifesavers are responding to deal with it.’

Cr Wright said the last thing he wanted was for Ballina to be regarded as the shark capital of the world.

But he said it was important to adopt every measure to ensure that the public were informed when sharks were about.

‘We’ll be meeting with politicians on Friday at 10am at the council to ask for funding to continue aerial patrols because they are working’ he said.

As well, academics from Southern Cross University were investigating such things as how long the baitfish could be expected to be in the area.

41-year-old Tadashi Nakahara was killed by a shark last month. (supplied)
41-year-old Tadashi Nakahara was killed by a shark last month. (supplied)

In a post to the Ballina Shark Reports site, a friend of Tadashi Nakahara, who was killed in a shark attack near Ballina on February 9, said it was ‘time to find out what is really going on with our oceans and the planet because it’s quite obvious Mother Nature is sending us some warnings’.

Angie Takanami, who watched her friend die, called for more research.

‘I know I don’t want to give up surfing here, so I’m all for there being an increased level of funding pushed out for researchers to try and get a proper evaluation of what the f### is going on,’ she said.

‘We take a risk every time we wake up as humans, because life is fatal.

‘This is not just a matter of greater surveillance therefore greater sightings, this is a matter of a freakishly number of attacks in a really short period of time, and a community having lost one friend and almost another.

‘Surfers are not harming the sharks, but maybe humans as a greater species are.’

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