BEACHGOERS at Hawks Nest were dealt an unnerving start to the school holidays on Monday as a juvenile great white shark passed within 50 metres of swimmers and prompted an evacuation.
The shark, estimated by the Department of Primary Industries as 2.2 metres long, was seen by a surveillance chopper crew off Bennetts beach at about 11.30am.
Lifeguards contracted by MidCoast Council for the fortnight-long school holidays evacuated several swimmers and board riders from the water, and reopened the beach around midday.
Hawks Nest is famous as a nursery for white sharks, and a Primary Industries listening station deployed off Bennetts beach last October registered dozens of visits by the sharks each day.
CSIRO research based on tagging and monitoring white sharks off Bennetts beach has found the ‘‘frequency of encounters between people and sharks can be high’’, but the frequency of attacks is ‘‘very low’’.