Tragedy waiting to happen

THE debate about shark fishing at Tathra Wharf has stirred plenty of emotions this week.

And the issue has potentially tragic consequences reaching beyond the edges of the iconic wharf.

Sharon Clarke, surf boat captain with the Tathra Surf Life Saving Club, said there is a group of regulars who swim between the beach and wharf every morning.

However, some are rethinking that pastime due to the sharks being lured to the area.

“They’ve been swimming there for years and years,” Ms Clarke said this week.

“There are some keen ones who go every morning no matter what, but I haven’t swum myself this year after reports of shark fishing at Tathra Wharf.

“And there are plenty of others who are hesitant now, knowing it’s going on.

“It also doesn’t make a lifesaver’s job easy either,” she said.

Ms Clarke said she recently went out on a SLSC boat to check up on a black balloon floating not far from the beach.

It was holding a bait to lure sharks in for fishermen on the wharf.

“And this was between the flags only 150 metres off-shore, with 100 people swimming there,” Ms Clarke said in disbelief.

“We all swim in the ocean knowing there are sharks, but you don’t like the idea that there are people luring and attracting sharks in so close.”

Senior ranger Peter Miles said he is receiving calls about the issue and that further inquiries are being made.

“There is certainly a level of community concern out there about it,” Mr Miles said.

“There’s a lot of community feeling on both sides.

“We’re making further inquiries.”

The penalty for disobeying the public ordinance posted at Tathra Wharf is a $200 fine, Mr Miles said.

That public ordinance fine pales in comparison to the penalty that can be imposed if illegal shark fishing is detected.

According to a NSW Department of Primary Industries spokesperson, harming endangered species such as a grey nurse shark carries a maximum penalty of $220,000 and/or two years’ jail.

“Anyone who witnesses illegal fishing activity should report it immediately to their local fisheries office or the Fishers’ Watch phone line on 1800 043 536,” the spokesperson said.

“Photographs or evidence of the activity will greatly assist fisheries officers in their investigations.”

For information on general fishing safety please visit www.safefishing

Guidelines on the humane harvesting of fish are available on the NSW DPI website, www.dpi.