Shark attacks as swimmers ignore risks
Greg Stolz, Gold Coast bureau chief
A MAN wading at a Sunshine Coast beach yesterday became the state's second shark attack victim in as many days as Gold Coast authorities continued to warn beach users there of the perils of swimming around schools of baitfish.
The man, wading in just 30cm of water yesterday morning, needed 11 stitches to a leg wound after the attack at Caloundra's Golden Beach.
That attack followed another further north at Hervey Bay on Sunday, when a man swimming off Point Vernon was lucky to escape with a minor puncture wound to his arm after he was bitten by a shark.
And on the Gold Coast yesterday, swimmers and surfers continued to dice with danger as packs of sharks chased a moving feast of baitfish along the shoreline.
For the third day in a row, the surf churned with thrashing sharks gorging on huge schools of pilchards and other fish. Lifeguards closed Surfers Paradise and surrounding beaches several times during the day but some swimmers and boardriders still tempted fate, venturing within metres of the baitfish schools.
Only minutes after lifeguards re-opened a southern Surfers Paradise beach after the morning's second shark scare, beachgoers including Swedish tourist Lotta Ermaklint had no qualms about going for a swim with her friend's three-year-old daughter, Tea Kaberg. "It's quite exciting and exotic," Ms Ermarklint said of the shark invasion.
"This is what I came to Australia for so I'm not worried."
Newly-arrived New Zealander Scott Whiting, 22, was similarly unfazed.
"It's a bit of fun – we certainly don't see stuff like this back home," he said.
Mr Whiting's girlfriend, Shararah Nadalo, 20, wasn't feeling quite as brave though.
"I'm not going in past my knees," she said.
Sydney tourist Tim McPherson, watching the feeding frenzy from the safety of the Q1 supertower observatory, said there was "no way" he or his family would be going for a swim.
"This is as close as I'm getting," he said.
Lifeguard Milton Brutton, who chased several sharks out of the shorebreak on his waverunner, said most of the sharks were less than 1m long, but no chances were being taken.
"It's a feeding frenzy out there and we don't need swimmers in the mix," he said.
"The only thing the sharks are interested in is the baitfish but we're taking all precautions and taking down the flags when the schools move in."
Mr Brutton said most swimmers and surfers were obeying lifeguard orders to leave the water.
"A few of the local boardriders are saying 'Tell us when you see one (a shark) over three foot and we'll get out then'," he said.
Fisheries Minister Tim Mulherin warned bathers to beware with bull sharks, bronze whalers and tiger sharks spotted in estuarine, canal and near shore waters.
"There are numerous reports of sharks chasing people in knee-deep water in pursuit of food, with some even stranding themselves in the shallows," he said.
"Swimming at patrolled beaches is certainly a safer option as shark safety equipment is strategically placed off 84 beaches along the Queensland coast.
"These beaches have the added protection of having lifesavers on duty."
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