LOCALS ACT ON GREAT WHITES
ESPERANCE locals are taking action to protect beachgoers at a notorious shark attack hot spot after fishermen told how their boats were stalked and rammed by great whites this week.
Great whites have harassed, bumped and bitten two small recreational boats at Wylie Bay, near Esperance, with a third sighting at popular surf break Kelp Beds. It’s the same break where teen surfer Laeticia Brouwer was killed in April and Sean Pollard lost both his hands in 2014.
Locals told The Sunday Times they were frustrated and distraught that ill-informed surfers — and fishermen with bait and burley — were still using the beach yesterday afternoon.
In a WA-first for shark attack mitigation, an electronic warning sign sought urgently by the coastal community will be personally delivered to the area by Nationals’ Member for the Agricultural Region Colin De Grussa today.
Mates Nick Parkanyi, 24, and Wayne Miller, 24, were fishing from a small tinny last weekend when a 3.5m great white shark started bumping their burley bucket at the back of their boat.
“What was most startling was the sheer mass of it,” Mr Miller said, who owned the tinny named Not Dead Yet. “There were a lot of four-letter words.”
Mr Parkanyi said it kept bumping them and they fled quickly: “If he’d given us a shove I reckon he nearly would have bloody knocked us out.”
Fishermen Jacob Oversby and Luke Christian also had a 3.5m great white shark bash and bite their 6m boat for 45 minutes on Thursday mid-afternoon, near Kelp Beds.
“It was pretty hairy,” Mr Oversby said. “It was trying to bite our motor, bumping into the back — pretty aggressive. It dented the marlin board.”
Shark expert and filmmaker David Riggs said the electronic sign, which will be updated via his mobile phone from today, could save lives.
Mr Riggs said Wylie Bay was experiencing a deadly combination of aggressive great white sharks harassing boats and coming to shore, an influx of Samson fish and pink snapper, congregating whales, plentiful seals, overcast skies and excellent conditions for the dual-use surf-fishing beach Kelp Beds.
Nine days before surfer Sean Pollard was attacked and lost his hands in 2014, Mr Riggs warned on local radio that an electronic sign was needed at the entrance to Wylie Bay to alert beachgoers to the threat.
“It just looked like a train wreck was coming and it came,” he said yesterday. “And I have that feeling again now. We have to get that (electronic) sign there.”
Mr Riggs said locals took seriously their obligations to properly warn any visitor of the latest reported risks.
“We need a clear conscience to do everything possible to warn people of the threat,” he said.
Yesterday, Mr De Grussa personally paid for the electronic sign, hitched it to his car and headed down to Esperance. He was concerned the shark warning signs at Kelp Beds Beach were too small and were regularly souvenired.
The big electronic sign could be changed in real time and could display five pages of urgent information, with a local number. “Sometimes simple ideas are the best,” he said.
Esperance primary school teacher Mitch Capelli runs a shark awareness Facebook page but says websites do not reach non-locals and Kelp Beds had poor reception.
In June, the McGowan Government announced Kelp Beds and West beaches had been selected for two new satellite-linked tagged shark detectors.
Cruel sea: David Riggs at the Kelp Beds.
At risk: Above, a great white circles. Picture: Luke Christian. Above right, Colin de Grussa with the electronic sign. Right, Nick Parkanyi and Wayne Miller.