Summer sharks prompt warning

MULTIPLE shark sightings along the South Coast have prompted a warning for beachgoers to be alert, but not alarmed.

Up to a dozen sharks were spotted by the Bendigo Bank Aerial Patrol in the Shoalhaven two weekends ago – some as close as 25 metres to swimmers.

In the most recent incident, three sharks, including a hammerhead, were seen between Plantation Point and Hyams Beach in Jervis Bay about 1pm on Saturday.

Aerial Patrol general manager Harry Mitchell said although there were swimmers nearby, the animals weren’t of concern.

“We carried out surveillance of those sharks and we were satisfied they weren’t posing a threat,” Mr Mitchell said.

“We checked them out again on the way back [from Mollymook] and they were still in the area, but had moved a little further away.”

The South Coast sightings came after hundreds of people were ordered out of the water at Bondi Beach last week.

Lifeguards used a shark alarm and jet skis to alert swimmers to the danger after a police helicopter, on an unrelated mission, spotted a bull shark on Friday morning.

Mr Mitchell said coming months would be a testing time for the service during coastline patrols between Stanwell Park and Mollymook, but urged beachgoers to be alert, not alarmed.

“All of that [recent sightings] serves as a timely reminder that we need to be very vigilant when enjoying ourselves in the water,” he said.

It was normal to see sharks moving closer to beaches because of warmer water temperatures, estuaries along the coast feeding plenty of nutrients after recent rainfall and large schools of fish, Mr Mitchell said.

The aerial service and its volunteers, who have conducted sweeps of Illawarra and Shoalhaven beaches for almost six decades, have stepped up their summer patrols over three local government areas.

The red and yellow patrol planes will operate daily until the end of the month, before resuming their weekend and public holiday surveillance missions until Anzac Day.

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