Shark packs invade Tweed coast beaches

By DARREN COYNE

DAVID Field knew there was a problem when a four-metre shark swam directly beneath his jetski yesterday ? the fact that there were up to 80 other sharks in the area added to his concern.

Mr Field, chairman of the Cudgen Surf Life Saving Club, was among the lifesavers who raced to Tweed Coast beaches yesterday to sound the alarm to hundreds of swimmers and surfers.

He said the four-metre shark and others were feeding on baitfish swimming along gutters close to the coast.

"Each school of baitfish had between six and eight sharks feeding on it and one fisherman told me that one big shark came out of the water down at Wommin Bay," he said.

"It launched itself out of the surf onto the sand and was snapping at baitfish which had swum onto the beach and then it wriggled back into the surf."

The sharks were first spotted just after 9am by the pilot of a private helicopter who notified the Gold Coast-based Lifesaver 5 rescue helicopter.

The alert was relayed to surf clubs along the Tweed coast.

Salt lifeguards warned swimmers in their area, but with no lifeguards stationed at Kingscliff over the Easter school holidays, volunteer lifesavers were called in to help warn people that the sharks were in a feeding frenzy between Salt and Kingscliff.

Lifesaver 5 chief pilot Peter Bird said he flew the chopper south to Fingal and saw a lot of baitfish in the water.

"We flew along the beach and got a few people out of the water. There were plenty of dolphins with the baitfish and the sharks were swimming under the dolphins," Mr Bird said.

"The surfers could see the dolphins but they probably didn't realise that there were some pretty big sharks there also. There were all different types."

Meanwhile, Mr Field said with so many holidaymakers in the area the Tweed Shire Council should reconsider its decision not to employ lifeguards around Fingal and Kingscliff.

"There was a lot of people using the beach. We had 150 people at Kingscliff and there was another 100 or so around Fingal," he said.

The beaches were reopened about 1.20pm.

A spokesman from the Tweed Fisheries Office said the sharks had been spotted in the surf zone feeding on pilchards. It is not known what species of shark they were, but the spokesman said they were likely to be bull, reef or whaler sharks.

"They (the pilchards) will continue north and the sharks will probably follow, so we can expect that Gold Coast beaches may also be closed," he said.



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