First shark caught and ready to be tagged off Ballina
UPDATE: THE first shark is being prepared to be tagged in the new North Coast shark tagging program, which begun this morning.
The Facebook page Shark Reports posted this a short time ago:
"The shark which was sighted a short time ago at the southern end of Shelly Beach East Ballina has been caught by NSW Fisheries and is being taken out to sea for GPS tagging.
"Its release location will be made after tagging and posted here."
Earlier the page had posted about the 3-4m shark spotted near Shelly Beach.
INITIAL REPORT: THREE large sharks were spotted from the air yesterday in shallow water, the day before a major operation gets underway this morning to locate and tag the North Coast's resident great whites.
The cruising predators were sighted during a morning flight at South Wall Ballina, Angels Beach in Ballina, and Broken Head.
A short time later two shark experts, Dr Vic Peddemors from the Department of Primary Industries (DPI), and CSIRO tagging coordinator Barry Bruce, addressed the media about the tagging operation at Ballina's Lighthouse Beach.
They spoke as seabirds dived busily into the crystal blue water teeming with baitfish.
The joint DPI-CSIRO effort will attempt to tag all the great whites believed to be roaming the North Coast, and try and make sense of the recent spate of sightings and attacks in the region.
Contrary to what concerned locals may hope, this is no quick fix.
Dr Peddemors was quick to point out the research was not part of a "shark mitigation program".
"We're looking at this as a long-term project. This is not a two-week, in-and-out (operation)," he said.
The transmitters implanted into the sharks do not give real-time data, and can only provide general movement patterns of the sharks.
The long-term aim of the project is to better understand what brings white sharks in "temporary aggregations" to particular areas along the East Coast.
"It's not all about just tagging, it's actually looking at the overall picture," Dr Peddemors said.
"We're looking at environmental conditions and marine wildlife distribution and abundance."
Senior CSIRO shark research scientist based in Hobart, Barry Bruce, said the CSIRO had been tagging great whites along the East Coast - of which there is an estimated adult population of about 800 - since 2007.
The CSIRO's tagging record is seven large great whites in a single day, and 300 great whites are currently tagged in Australian waters.
Mr Bruce also explained that white sharks in clusters close to shore was not unusual. A previous temporary cluster of whites also occurred around Newcastle last summer and caused the closure of that city's beaches for nine days in a row.
Now the race is on to work out why white sharks cluster, and when.
Dr Peddemors said: "We're hoping that that will in turn allow us to predict future events when conditions are similar so that we can provide early warning for bather safety and shark attack mitigation."
Mr Bruce said the local sharks were all in the three metre range, making them adolescent rather than fully grown.
"From what we've seen today the animals currently in the area are between 2.5 and 3.5m and that's pretty typical of the size we would expect," he said.