A HAWKS Nest beach was evacuated and closed yesterday after a helicopter spotted a large shark, believed to be a great white, approaching swimmers.
The sighting came just five days after a Department of
Primary Industries trial of helicopter shark patrols ended, leaving the Hunter's beaches without a devoted eye in the sky to protect beachgoers.
The weekend patrols stop ped on Sunday, although
another has been scheduled as a ``one-off''' on the Aust
ralia Day weekend patrols the last in the trial.
An unidentified helicopter spotted the four-metre shark
at the southern end of Bennett's Beach at Hawks Nest
yesterday about 12.30pm.
The helicopter crew contacted police who contacted
lifeguards, who quickly evacuated about 20 people
from the water.
The beach was closed for about 30 minutes, as is protocol when a shark is sighted in close proximity to swimmers.
Yesterday's scare was the fourth reported incident at Bennett's Beach since October.
NSW Opposition spokesman for primary industries
Duncan Gay last week called for year-round surveillance of the state's beaches.
He said the lack of constant aerial shark monitor
ing amounted to a game of ``Russian roulette'' with
The Department of Primary Industries has said it
would consider the future of aerial surveillance of bea
ches once the results of the trial were assessed.
Debbie Carling from Newcastle Helicopters, who
conducted the shark patrol trial for the department said sharks were regularly spotted near Birubi Point
and Broughton Island.
We see great whites and hammerheads a lot, but they're pretty placid because there's so much fish around,'' Ms Carling said yesterday.
Fishermen have reported large schools of baitfish in
Hunter waters, usually an indicator that sharks will
begin coming closer to shore.
Pure Fishing wholesaler Peter Sanderson said
species including yellowtail and salmon were drawing
strong interest from sharks in the region.
``The salmon is one species the great white cherish,'' he said.``When you get a combination of these baitfish, it filters through and you get predators [like sharks] coming in.''
Hawks Nest surfer James Paterson said he saw a shark on average once in every three times he went surfing. ``From my perspective, we're going into their domain,'' he said.``You've just got to be educated and keep an eye out. [Seeing sharks] is not really something out of the ordinary for us.''
"I'm going for a surf tomorrow, so hopefully that one's gone.''
In December, a juvenile great white shark bit into the
oar of a Hawks Nest-Tea Gardens surf club boat.
The next day, Gosford siblings Melissa and Steven
Turner were were orced from the water by a number of sharks, possibly great whites, feeding on baitfish.