PADDLER: Byron Bay SLSC member Woody Vigden was knocked off his ski at Belongil beach in a suspected shark attack.
PADDLER: Byron Bay SLSC member Woody Vigden was knocked off his ski at Belongil beach in a suspected shark attack. Christian Morrow

Attacking our shark risk

BALLINA body boarder Mathew Lee, 32, remains in a serious condition at the Gold Coast University Hospital after being attacked by a great white shark last Thursday morning at Lighthouse Beach.

It is believed that a new procedure of carrying emergency blood, introduced just last week to the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter, may have played a big part in saving Mr Lee's life.

Paramedics administered two units of the blood in an attempt to stabilise Mr Lee after he went into cardiac arrest.

This attack comes during a fortnight that has had several shark encounters in the region, beginning with Byron's Arthur "Woody" Vigden being knocked off his ski at Belongil Beach.

DPI confirmed Mr Vigden's ski was bitten by a great white.

There have also been fresh calls to deploy shark nets to decrease the risk to swimmers and surfers on the North Coast from Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis. Others have called for the shark to be tagged or culled.

All three ideas were dismissed by Southern Cross University shark expert Dr Daniel Bucher.

Dr Bucher said the number of shark attacks on the Northern Rivers over the past year, including two attacks last week and a fatal shark attack in February, were not reflections of "a plague of sharks" rather the result of conditions bringing large sharks close to shore.

He said a combination of conditions including gannets diving on fish schools near the surface, rain washing dirty water out of the river and great whites following the whale migrations and fish runs were bringing the predators close to shore.

"Culling should be ruled out," Dr Bucher said. "In great whites we're dealing with a threatened species, so the existing population is very low."

As for shark nets, Dr Bucher said they have been shown to be ineffective. Tagging and monitoring great whites would only work if the majority of the population were tagged.

Dr Bucher said the best things surfers could do to reduce their chances of getting attacked was be aware of the conditions and not surf in high-risk areas when sharks were likely to be close to shore.


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