Monster shark clears surf at Fingal Head
UPDATE: Swimmers at Hastings Point were ushered out of the water on this morning after a 3.5metre great white shark was spotted just metres away.
The giant predator was spotted just 50m offshore at about 8.30am by a New South Wales Department of Primary Industries aerial patrol.
One surfer who had left the water before the shark was sighted said there had been a lot of activity in the water.
"It was fairly calm but there was a lot of fish activity,” he said.
"It's been like that the last few days.
There was a lot of bait fish and dolphins but I didn't see a shark.”
The sighting is the latest in a spike in shark sightings at Tweed Coast beaches.
A MONSTER great white shark has hurried surfers out of the water at Fingal Head twice in the past three weeks.
Surfers were told to clear the water at the popular beach after a 3.8-metre great white was spotted by a helicopter patrol on December 20.
That sighting came just four days after two surfers were confronted by a shark during a mid-morning surf at the same beach.
The surfers said the shark, which they described as a great white that was at least 3m long, had swum at them before they paddled to the beach.
The incidents are among a spate of shark sightings reported at Tweed Coast beaches this summer.
The latest reported sighting came on Monday when a 3m great white was spotted at Wooyung by a New South Wales Department of Primary Industries aerial patrol.
There were no swimmers in the water at the time but the helicopter was used to herd the shark offshore.
While the number of sightings suggests an increase in sharks numbers in Tweed Coast waters, Northern NSW lifeguard co-ordinator Scott McCartney said the rise in reports could be due to heightened awareness in the community.
"People have become a lot more aware and there is a lot more monitoring going on,” Mr McCartney said said.
"The DPI helicopter is doing patrols, there are tagging operations,” he said.
"From the reports it appears that there are more about but I'm just waiting to see what comes out of all the research done by the DPI and the specialists.”
The increase in sightings on Tweed Coast beaches comes as Gold Coast-based shark expert Daryl McPhee warned people to be wary of relying on individual shark deterrents.
Dr McPhee, an associate professor at Bond University, said deterrents had had a surge in popularity following a spate of shark attacks on the north and mid-north coasts.
There were six attacks in the region in 2016, prompting the installation last month of shark nets at beaches at Ballina, Lennox Head and Evans Head.
The spate of attacks has also given rise to individual shark deterrents on the market but Dr McPhee has called on the Federal Government to regulate the devices, warning untested devices could give beachgoers a false sense of security which could see them put themselves in harms way.
Dr McPhee said while some available products had been independently tested, a flood of new devices were hitting the market that had not.
"A number of manufacturers are making self-claims on the effectiveness of these products that is unlikely to be supported by independent scientific study,” he said.
Simply going swimming or surfing and not being bitten by a shark does not mean that a device works.
"The probability of being bitten by a shark is extremely low but the false confidence ineffective devices provide could actually see people putting themselves at greater personal risk, rather than adding an additional layer of protection.”
Dr McPhee's warning follows reports of a American teen being bitten on the arm while wearing a shark repellent.
The teen received the band as a Christmas gift but when he took it out for the first time a shark latched onto his arm, leaving him with wounds that required 44 stitches.
Dr McPhee said the best thing water users can do is take individual responsibility for their own safety.
"If you're heading to the beach this summer, listen to the advice of experts,” he said.
"There's a few simple rules that you should abide by, such as steering clear of swimming in canals, avoiding beaches near river mouths, particularly after rain, and avoiding swimming in areas where large schools of baitfish are present.
"The best thing water users can do is swim between the flags and obey lifeguard instructions.”