LO­CALS ACT ON GREAT WHITES

The Sunday Times - - NEWS - ROCHELLE TETLOW

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.

Pic­ture: Dan Paris.

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.

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