LAST summer was the season of the shark – but it certainly was not the first time the predators visited our region.
A dig through the Herald’s photographic archives proves Hunter fishermen and surfers have long had an ambivalent relationship with the predators, who often herald a healthy ecosystem beneath the surface.
But tensions have grown closer to shore in recent years, with a Parliamentary inquiry beginning last Thursday to examine how sharks can be managed in NSW.
Unseasonably hot November weather has driven the Hunter’s punters into the surf early this year, with few deterred by the record closures last summer.
Perhaps they are placing more emphasis on the fact Lake Macquarie beaches have had just two serious attacks in more than 50 years.
Glen “Lenny” Folkard was attacked in January 2012 and Reginald “Rex” Ogilvie in 1932, both at Redhead beach.
But those statistics seem less memorable than the attacks in recent years.
Former Newcastle firefighter Dave Quinlivan nearly died from blood loss when he was attacked at Black Head in September this year, and musicianLisa Mondy was bitten several times by a great white shark after falling from her wakeboard in March 2011 at Jimmys Beach.
Plenty were willing to brave the water even during those ten hot January days when Newcastle City Council lifeguards shut down the city’s coastline for safety reasons.
One shark, famously described as five metres long and weighing about 1700 kilograms, kept popping up.
While there have been numerous attacks in the Hunter in the past few years, the focus of the shark debate has shifted towards the state’s north coast after a spate of attacks.
Far North Coast Shark Action Group’s Don Munro told Fairfax last week that he was in favour of the new drumline technology “as a short term, interim thing. The sooner the better.”
In his submission to the committee, Mr Munro said he had “never seen a community so shaken up and cautious about entering the ocean”.