An Eden angler and recreational fishing retailer says there is “no reason to stop swimming” in the wake of last Thursday’s Tathra shark attack.
Michael Mashado from Eden Outdoors & Marine believes encounters with sharks are unavoidable given the local conditions, but said only two local incidents in the past eight years mean there is no cause for concern.
Tathra Surf Lifesaving Club member Christine Armstrong is believed to be the first ever victim of a fatal shark attack on the NSW South Coast, while Eden abalone diver Eric Nerhus made a miraculous escape from the jaws of a white pointer shark in 2007.
Mr Nerhus used his abalone chisel to stab the shark’s head and eyes after it swallowed his head and shoulders off Cape Howe, leaving him with deep bleeding wounds on his head, chest and back, and a broken nose.
“We’ve had two shark attacks in how many years, and how many people swim in the water here,” Mr Mashado said.
“There is no reason to stop swimming; we’ve got commercial divers and surfers out there all the time.
“Two encounters in seven years, it’s not worth worrying about.”
Despite this, Mr Mashado said he is surprised a shark attack at Tathra didn’t occur sooner.
He said sightings are common, and described it as the “former mecca” of game fishing for large sharks.
“For a long time, it has been known for big sharks, and regular encounters with big sharks,” he said.
“A few divers over the years have had close encounters with white pointers while diving off the Tathra Wharf.
“Fifteen or 20 years ago, it was the mecca for land-based game fishing for big sharks, so it doesn’t surprise me that it’s happened.
“I’m surprised it’s taken this long to happen.”
Southland Fish Supplies managing director Stephen Buckless said the local area has seen increased numbers of sharks recently.
He said the Sapphire Coast currently holds a good food supply for sharks, which have a tendency to migrate and “follow the food”.
“The amount of sharks that get caught up [in nets] around here is huge,” Mr Buckless said.
“We’ve seen an increased number of all species around here lately, including bronze whalers and great whites.
“They’re just doing what sharks do and following the food.
“Fish stocks have increased and there are a lot of bait fish around here, and that’s what they eat.
“The water is also warmer and conditions are right for them at the moment.”