Lake council to assess shark attack risks

A METHOD to assess the risk of shark attack in Lake Macquarie could be developed with a city council plan.

NSW government shark scientists had ‘‘underwater acoustic stations at the lake entrance to detect movement of tagged fish and sharks’’, a council report said.

Council staff plan to ask the Department of Primary Industries to share the information.

‘‘The data from these listening stations is only downloaded twice a year,’’ the report said.

Despite that, the council hopes the information will improve ‘‘understanding of risks associated with shark attacks’’.

The council aimed to develop ‘‘a method to assess the risk of shark attack in the lake’’.

Councillors will vote on the plan on Monday.

Residents had asked the council to reinstall shark nets at Belmont Bay, but council staff opposed the plan.

Installing nets at Belmont baths would cost more than $45,000 and maintaining them would cost $12,000 a year, the report said.

Some residents believe sharks in the lake had increased in ‘‘number, type and size’’ since commercial fishing was banned in 2002.

The last reported shark attack in Lake Macquarie was on October 14, 1946, in Swan Bay, Marks Point, when a swimmer was bitten on the leg.

The report warned that people were in shark territory when they ‘‘enter open water’’.

‘‘Sharks are a natural part of healthy oceanic and estuarine environments,’’ it said.

No netted swimming areas remained in the lake, except in Wyong Shire at the lake’s southern end.

Lake Macquarie council provided 15 bathing spots marked with buoys that were vessel exclusion zones.

The council provided swimming enclosures, made of timber, in the lake up until the 1970s.

They were phased out mainly because of their high cost and the increase in private swimming pools.

‘‘Only one enclosed public bath, with wooden slats, remains in the lake at Kilaben Bay,’’ it said.

The council had erected signs at swimming areas connected to jetties to warn people of ‘‘hazardous marine life’’.

‘‘Not providing enclosures within the lake exposes the council to some degree of risk,’’ it said.

However, there was no record of legal action against Australian authorities over a shark attack.

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