LIFESAVER SAYS: The number of shark sightings has shaken even experienced water users.
LIFESAVER SAYS: The number of shark sightings has shaken even experienced water users.

Shark fear is growing with increased sightings: lifesaver

SHARKS have become a growing concern for surfers and swimmers on the Northern Rivers, a long-time surf life saver said.

Ballina resident Eoin Johnston, who has 51 years' experience as a patrol surf life saver, said many people who have spent thousands of hours swimming or board riding off the coast were starting to have their confidence tested by the number of shark encounters.

"The attitude has changed," he said.

"In the last 15 to 18 months, I think a lot of people would agree with me… there have been so many more sightings and so many more incidents that everyone's getting cold feet I think… and not just because it's winter.

"You talk to some of the surf board repair people who are fixing, every fortnight, a fin that's been chewed off or a board that's been bitten.

"Fatalities, attacks, sightings, incidents with surf craft and that huge shark actually swimming in and out of the broken surf for hours after last Thursday's attack have led me to suggest that something has to be done."

Mr Johnston said he didn't want to see sharks killed but suggested problem sharks found coming closer to shore or bumping surfers could be tagged and tracked.

He said this may be able to shed some light on whether or not there were individual problem sharks that were repeatedly coming close to shore and having close encounters with swimmers and surfers.

Northern Rivers diver and surfer Paul Paitson said he had also noticed sharks coming in closer to shore.

"I think there are more sharks," he said. "I've seen more and had more encounters with them.

"It's made me more wary."

One regular Northern Rivers swimmer and surfer who commented on The Northern Star's website said shark sightings had increased noticeably in the past five years.

"There are incidents around Lennox with shark sightings, or sharks having a run by or under surfers regularly," the swimmer said.

"The majority of the incidents go unreported."

"An increase in sharks has been occurring since the introduction of Marine Parks and no fishing zones."

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