Officials fear that locals may be planning to “take matters into their own hands” off Byron Bay in Australia, as a contentious debate over culling a local population of sharks reaches a fever pitch.
A community meeting was held on Monday night in the region, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, following an astonishing number of shark sightings and attacks in the area over the last few months. The incidents have reportedly frightened off local beachgoers, having a dramatic impact on tourism and local businesses, according to Ballina shire mayor David Wright.
“I’ve been in Ballina or Byron Bay all my life and I’ve never seen anything like it. People who have surfed every morning for 40 years are not going in. People are pulling out of holidays from caravan parks and other accommodation. If you’ve seen the Mick Fanning footage, that’s happened 10 or 11 times in this area this year.”
— Aquaman (@AquamanOD) August 12, 2015
The Ballina coastline is currently patrolled by a helicopter on the weekends, which was authorized by the local council. The measure comes after the death of surfer Tadashi Nakahara, who was killed in February, as the Inquisitr previously reported, and a series of other incidents. Eleven others have been attacked in the region, including bodyboarder Matt Lee and surfer Craig Ison, both of whom are still hospitalized following their shark encounters.
— Marine Biology (@MarineBiologyRR) August 12, 2015
So far, the helicopter crew has identified no less than seven great white sharks, which regularly patrol the shoreline. They range in length from three to five meters, and have been sighted within 20 meters of surfers at Boulders Beach on five different occasions over the last two weeks. Earlier this year, another white shark closed beaches in the region, and lifeguards asserted that it was “of a size not before seen” off their coastline.
“That could have been five more tragedies if we didn’t have the helicopter,” Wright pointed out.
A fisherman has hooked what’s believed to be a 4m tiger shark off NSW, prompting calls for a cull from local surfers. pic.twitter.com/ydxonl8L4q
— Ten News Perth (@TenNewsPerth) August 12, 2015
The mayor fears that a vigilante group of local surfers could begin killing sharks in their own cull if measures aren’t taken, as the Daily Mail reports. On Tuesday, he wrote the the Department of Primary Industries, requesting that researchers be sent to the area to determine why so many sharks are present there.
— The Daily Telegraph (@dailytelegraph) August 12, 2015
Two hundred people were reportedly on hand for Monday’s meeting, and of those, 95 percent voted in favor of a controlled shark cull that would target animals that have caused issues. This could potentially include the seven great white sharks spotted off the coast. Despite local concerns, the state government has reportedly ruled out shark culls for the near future, and has no plans to change their stance.
[Image via Twitter]