Four bull sharks were tagged and released in the Richmond River at Ballina on Thursday 23 February 2017.
Four bull sharks were tagged and released in the Richmond River at Ballina on Thursday 23 February 2017. Supplied

Bull sharks lurking in suburban Coast lakes

IT'S no secret to locals that bull sharks are in our Coastal canals and waterways, but to unsuspecting new-comers or visitors, they pose a potentially deadly threat.

A shiver runs down the spine of experienced Coast shark expert Tony Isaacson every time he sees kids or families playing near known shark habitat during the stormy weather.

He says that bull sharks foraging in muddy waters are attracted to splashing movement and shiny objects like watches and jewellery.

 

The Sunshine Coast has never seen a fatality from sharks and Mr Isaacson wishes for its reputation as a safe destination to remain that way.

While he is wary of creating a panic, he knows that bull sharks come over the barriers, particularly at this time of year.

"I believe that the next major incident with a shark will not be at a patrolled beach. A category 3 (shark bite) or category 4 (fatality) is more likely to be in a canal, estuary or managed waterway like Lake Kawana," Mr Isaacson said.

 

BULL SHARKS: A council sign at Lake Kawana warning of sharks.
BULL SHARKS: A council sign at Lake Kawana warning of sharks. John McCutcheon

"When major rain events happen, flood waters allow bull sharks to access areas that most people would expect to be permanent barriers.

"Female sharks are not aggressive while they are pupping. Big weather events prompt testosterone driven males to forage in zero visibility. They will bump and bite.

"Somewhere like Lake Kawana becomes a place of reckoning when a preventable incident could impact on our multi million-dollar event tourism sector and brand Sunshine Coast."

Large sharks have been spotted near Twin Waters, Parrearra Lake and Currimundi Lake.

 

BULL SHARKS: A council sign at Lake Kawana warning of sharks.
BULL SHARKS: A council sign at Lake Kawana warning of sharks. John McCutcheon

Crane operators at the Sunshine Coast University Hospital have seen large bull sharks in Lake Kawana.

 

Mr Isaacson has called for new, updated signs to warn people of the risks of swimming in these natural and constructed bull shark habitats.

"Just the other day I saw kids on rope swings splashing into a swollen Mooloolah River on the west side of Kawana Island with no concept that they were in a high risk area," he said.

"Further up the river I saw tubers being towed behind a small boat. I certainly wouldn't be doing that. Kayakers in Twin Waters have been bumped by bull sharks.

"Newcomers to the Coast and foreigners are not bull shark aware. Signage is important. Existing signage is of a generic nature with images of dangerous creatures that are unlikely to be in managed waterways.

 

BULL SHARKS: A lone fisherman at Lake Parrearra.
BULL SHARKS: A lone fisherman at Lake Parrearra. John McCutcheon

"We need signs with clear images of the dangers to raise awareness without relying on English to highlight the danger.

"What hope does a visitor have when they enter our waterways and lakes to cool off during the hottest and highest risk period of the year?"

He said the one fatality at a beach protected by assets of the shark control program at Amity Point in January 2006 could have been prevented if the high risk conditions that were known to locals were known to the visiting church group on North Stradbroke Island.



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