FEEDING FRENZY

By DARREN COYNE

SWIMMERS beware, the sharks aren't going anywhere.

In fact lifesavers expect even more sharks will plague the Gold Coast and Tweed beaches during the next month or so, as large schools of bait fish migrate through the area.

Gold Coast Surf Life Saving duty officer Sue Neil went out among the predators near Southport early yesterday on her jetski and described the scene as an "absolute feeding frenzy".

"The numbers are getting less each day, but they are still there and still pose a threat," she said.

"The sharks are having a ball, but if you were there swimming among that they could take a big nip out of you."

Burleigh Beach was closed a number of times yesterday as dozens of sharks continued to feed on the schools of bait fish.

As for the surfers and swimmers defying warnings from lifesavers not to enter the water, Ms Neil said, "I think they're mad".

"You've got to be wary of all sharks, that's why we've been closing beaches. You just can't afford the risk to the public."

She said while the majority of the sharks were young black-tipped reef sharks about one metre long, larger sharks such as hammerheads and bull sharks had also been spotted in recent days.

"I saw a large one, about three metres, just cruising by himself on Sunday afternoon near Tallebudgera," she said.

"And today there were sharks just 10 metres

offshore in places."

On Monday an 18-year-old man was bitten on the foot by a shark in just 30cm of water on theSunshine Coast.

The increase in shark sightings along the coast in recent days coincides with a report released by the University of Florida which said Australia was second only to the United States as the most likely spot to have a nasty run-in with a shark.

The report also found that surfers were the most frequent victims of shark attacks around the world last year, with 29 incidents, followed by swimmers and waders, 20, and divers, four.

Worldwide there were 58 attacks, down from 65 a year earlier, and fatalities fell from seven to four.

Two of those deaths happened in Australia. The attack on Brisbane woman Sarah Whitley at North Stradbroke Island's Amity Point last month was not included in the report.

The study also found that shark attacks dropped last year because people were fighting back more often when threatened, and the ranks of ocean predators was thinning because of overfishing of the species.

Meanwhile, Gold Coast City Council lifeguard superintendent Peter Miller yesterday said the increase in shark numbers along the coast was a normal pattern for this time of the year.

"We expect more to come through over the next month or two. It's a normal pattern and we monitor it very closely every day," Mr Miller said. "Most people are aware of the situation."



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