Shark warning signs coming down

RABY BAY: Confusion reigns over whether reported shark sightings are the real thing. Lifesavers are investigating the issue.
RABY BAY: Confusion reigns over whether reported shark sightings are the real thing. Lifesavers are investigating the issue.

SWIMMERS, paddle board riders and even surf lifesavers ignored shark warnings put up at Raby Bay by Redland City Council last weekend.

During the weekend heatwave a Surf Lifesaving Queensland class continued in the shallows after signs went up following an unconfirmed report of a shark.

A council spokesperson said the signs were a temporary measure.

“The sighting could not be substantiated and the sign is in the process of being removed,’’ the spokesperson said.

“Residents are reminded that marine environments are natural habitats for sharks and other animals so care should always be taken when entering local waterways.’’

A parent at the weekend classes for little lifesavers said the alleged sighting was a confusing issue, with one person claiming they had seen a shark but others saying it was a dugong. 

Lifesavers community awareness manager Helen Hallett said safety was the organisation’s priority and the incident was being investigated.

“We will work with the Redland Shire Council to gain further understanding of their procedures and protocols of how they document shark sightings and their warning systems,’’ Ms Hallett said.

“Following the outcome of these investigations and inquiries we will modify our existing protocols and give additional training to staff to ensure it will not happen again.’’

Shark signs also went up in October, a warning that prompted plenty of comment on Facebook, with people saying there had always been sharks there. Others believed dugong were mistaken for sharks.

Bond University researcher Daryl McPhee said the species most likely to be in an area like Raby Bay would be bull sharks or small whalers like black tip sharks.

Bull sharks, which grew to 2.4 metres, were one of the top three species that featured in attacks and were often in Gold Coast canals.

The issue of sharks in their natural environment and whether people should stay out of the water is a moot point, with sharks recorded everywhere along the Australian coast.

Dr McPhee said warnings should be obeyed although people had more chance of dying from fireworks than from sharks.

“People can’t expect governments to make mountain climbing 100 per cent safe nor swimming in the ocean 100 per cent safe,’’ he said.

Over the past decade all governments started putting out media warnings and signage about a range of potential safety issues in an effort to protect themselves from a growing number of law suits.

Brisbane City Council even warns about king tides.

Lockyer Valley Regional Council mayor, the late Steve Jones, attacked the issue, saying a result was that the Weather Bureau was putting out too many storm and flood warnings after the 2010-11 floods over which hundreds of flood-effected people are taking legal action.

In the 54 years since shark netting and the rigging of drumline hooks started in Queensland, there has been just one fatal attack on a protected beach. That was at Amity on North Stradbroke Island in January 2006 when 21-year-old Sarah Whiley was killed by a bull shark.