Beaches are closed after a shark attack at Shelly Beach, Ballina.
Beaches are closed after a shark attack at Shelly Beach, Ballina. Liana Turner

Shark tooth imprints measured by experts after attack

UPDATE 5.50pm: THE Department of Primary Industries (DPI) has identified a white shark was responsible for the incident at Shelly Beach, Ballina this morning.

DPI shark biologists have measured the shark tooth imprints on the surfboard and believe the shark involved was a juvenile white shark of around 2.6 metres in total length. 

DPI is assisting NSW Police in responding to the incident, where 43-year-old Lee Jonsson, who was surfing, was bitten on his calf.

Ballina Council has made the decision to close all beaches in the immediate vicinity for 24 hours and Surf Life Saving NSW have deployed drones and jet skis.

The SMART drumline trial is continuing on the north coast, with 35 SMART drumlines deployed daily, weather permitting, between Evans Head and Lennox Head.

SMART drumlines were deployed off Shelly Beach and adjacent beaches early this morning at around the time of the incident.

As part of the collaboration with Surf Life Saving NSW, drones are being trialled on the North Coast.

Real-time listening stations alert beach users about presence of tagged sharks on the North Coast. Stations on the North Coast are located off Lighthouse Beach (Ballina), Sharpes Beach (Ballina), Lennox Head, Byron Bay, Kingscliff and Yamba

DPI will continue to work with NSW Police, Surf Life Saving NSW and the community to determine what action should be taken to minimise ongoing risk.

DPI continues to work with other agencies including NSW Police Marine Area Command and Surf Life Saving NSW, and will continue to monitor the situation and provide any technical advice and resources if required.

Further information can be found at the Department's website


UPDATE, 12.15pm: SHARK nets would not have prevented a shark attack in Ballina this morning, according to mayor David Wright.

Cr Wright said even if the DPI hadn't decided not to use shark nets this summer, they would not have been in the water when a 42-year-old man was attacked while surfing just after 7am today.

And even then, based on the past two years' shark meshing trials, Cr Wright said the nets wouldn't have covered that stretch of the beach.

He has, however, said some changes to protocol could be investigated.

"Everything that could have been done was done," Cr Wright said.

"We'll just make sure we tighten up the protocols."

Cr Wright said the incident occurred in about the same location where Tadashi Nakahara was fatally attacked in early 2015.

The 43-year-old hurt today has not sustained life-threatening injuries, and fought the unidentified shark off with his surfboard before driving himself to hospital.

Cr Wright said he was interested to see whether extra patrols leading into the school holidays, extra drones and different technology could help in the future.

Surf Lifesavers had been using drones to patrol the area after the incident, but were unable to locate the shark.

Windy weather and choppy surf conditions made that more challenging, Cr Wright said.

"At the moment ... they've been using one drone for both beaches (but) I've asked for them to have separate drones," Cr Wright said.

"Firstly, it's pretty windy for a drone and secondly the water gets sort of choppy and it can't see through that."

Cr Wright said he was keen to see if the Ballina coast could benefit from drones fitted out with infra-red cameras.

"I'll mention that later on to authorities and maybe we can look at getting one of those, because that would pick it up," he said.

Cr Wright said he expected the community to be concerned about the incident, but he said it was also important to think of emergency services involved in a spate of attacks several years ago.

"Everyone will be concerned," he said.

"I've spoken to a couple of community members but the main thing is that we make sure that the lifeguards and police that actually do these things, a lot of them were traumatised a couple of years ago so we want to make sure they're okay.

"The victim is okay, drove himself to the hospital even though it was a 20cm wound.

"We've got to make sure all the protocols are in place that we know can work.

"Sometimes things might get a bit lax after time and I'll be pushing to Surf Life Saving and DPI that ... when we ask for extra stuff that we get it, and hopefully we'll have a safe summer."

But Cr Wright said he was confident in the measures currently in place.

"There are sharks around and the mitigation measures we've got are as good as you can get," he said.

While Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair announced in August they would not use nets this summer, 35 SMART drumlines, drone and aerial surveillance have remained for Seven Mile Beach at Lennox Head, Sharpes, Shelly and Lighthouse beaches as Ballina as well as Main Beach at Evans Head.


Original story: A RESIDENT, who asked not to be named, said he was worried by the attack.

He said he used to be a surfer, but has stopped the hobby since a spate of incidents on Ballina's coast several years ago.

"I'm very concerned," he said.

"What I would like to see is actually a referendum, so to speak, on the locals here to have a vote on whether we'd like to see nets used again."

The DPI earlier this year released findings from the second shark meshing trial, which found the majority of marine life caught in the nets were non-target species.

But he hoped this option could be further explored.

The resident feared today's incident could further hurt Ballina's image as a tourism town.

"I travel a lot for work and when I say I'm from Ballina the first thing that comes out of their mouth is about the sharks," he said.

"I think it has a negative impact on tourism which affects businesses."

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