Sharks eat bait fish as three surfed nearby

A GROUP of Pottsville surfers say there is no need for shark nets on the Tweed, despite their own close encounters with sharks.

Daniel Fleming, Tom Tate and Damien Muras were surfing with others from their "Elusive" surfing team at Hastings Point only days before Jonathan Beard was attacked by a 3.5-metre great white shark at Fingal Head on Sunday.

As they were paddling out they were right near a "boiling" school of bait fish and soon noticed there were sharks everywhere.

"There were four sharks out there, one was really big," Mr Muras said.

Only 10 metres away one of the sharks, which they think was a bull shark, fully breached out of the water as it attacked the fish.

"The boys looked at each other and said: 'That wasn't a dolphin'," Mr Fleming said. "It was pretty heavy," Mr Tate said.

But they just kept on paddling out and surfed for two hours without much of a worry.

"There was plenty of food out there," Mr Fleming said.

"There was a lot of dolphins around doing crazy back flips. If we were going to get eaten, we were going to get eaten."

Being part of that natural ocean environment is what they love about hanging around Tweed beaches, and they said there is no way they would want Gold Coast-style shark nets.

"We swim in the ocean at our own risk, that is the most beautiful thing about living down here," Mr Fleming said.

"We don't want to be wrapped up in bubbles."

He said humans were the ones entering shark territory by going in the ocean and he objected to the idea of installing nets that protected humans, but which also caught turtles and whales.

Mr Fleming said there were "sharks everywhere", from Hastings Point, to Cabarita and Black Rock, and he had seen many since returning from a stint in Cairns a few months ago. He blamed the abundance of bait fish recently for the spike in sightings.

There were three shark attacks at the beginning of this week.

Mr Beard, who managed to paddle 70m to shore with a gaping leg wound on Sunday, was still recovering in the Gold Coast Hospital yesterday.

Another 13-year-old surfer survived a great white shark attack in Tasmania on the same day, and on Monday, a snorkeller at Lake Illawarra fought off what he thought was a bull shark that had latched onto his leg.

Despite this string of attacks, conservationists have maintained sharks are still endangered.

The Humane Society and the NSW Nature Conservation Council want the federal government to better protect sharks under law.

"With their slow reproductive capabilities, sharks are much more akin to whales than they are to other fish. Like whales they cannot withstand hunting," a spokeswoman said.



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