Fatal Tathra shark attack sparks warnings

SWIMMERS have been warned to stay out of the water at a NSW tourist spot after a 63-year-old woman was killed by a shark during a regular morning swim.

Christine Armstrong, a member of her local surf lifesaving club, was with a swimming group at Tathra Beach on the NSW south coast when she went missing yesterday.

Emergency services said she was killed swimming the 250 metres between Tathra Wharf and Tathra Beach about 8.20am.

Witnesses claim to have seen a shark, three to four metres long, close to the surface.

It is understood about five or six swimmers were doing their regular circuit when Mrs Armstrong separated from the group, turned back towards the wharf and disappeared.

Emergency services and surf lifesavers are searching the area, with reports that body parts have been discovered.

"She will be sadly missed by all who loved her, especially by Rob, her husband of 44 years," Mrs Armstrong's family said in a statement.

"She has been swimming at Tathra Beach for 14 years and was an experienced and committed member of the surf club."

Police and surf lifesavers asked the public to stay out of the water at Tathra Beach following the attack.

Tathra has a population of only a few hundred and it is believed to be the first reported shark attack in the area.

"It struck me as surprising," said shark bite expert Dr Chris Neff of the University of Sydney said.

"Tathra certainly doesn't have a history of shark attacks on the database."

The fatal shark attack brings to 47 the number of people killed in NSW in the past 100 years, according to the Shark Attack File.

Dr Colin Simpfendorfer, a shark researcher at Queensland's James Cook University, said the shark was likely to have been a great white as they inhabit Australia's southern waters.

"There is no place that is particularly safe," he said.

He was surprised the attack happened so close to shore as the swimmers were only 100 metres from the beach.

Bermagui Blue Balls swimming club president Gary Pearse often swims and dives in the area.

"There is a resident great white. I haven't seen it myself, but I know people who have and there's also a lot of bronze whalers," Mr Pearse said.

Local resident Molly Carroll described the scene in the fishing village as "eerie". AAP

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