FREMANTLE mayor Hannah Fitzhardinge says the council may have to look at shark protection measures on the Swan River following a fatal attack on a 16-year-old girl in North Fremantle last Saturday.
“The risk is not changed in the last week, but the concern is that the perceived risk is very high and people don’t want to go in the water or at the beach,” she said.
Ms Fitzhardinge revealed she had been swimming just 500 metres upstream when Shenton Park student Stella Berry was attacked by the shark after reportedly jumping in the water near Northbank to swim closer to dolphins.
“We saw the water police going out and got a call 10 minutes later.”
It gives her an interesting perspective on the perceived risk: “I am a fairly rational person, and I go to South Beach for a swim pretty much every morning, and on Monday I had to give myself a bit of a pep talk,” Ms Fitzhardinge said.
She’d been jumping off the jetty at Harvey Beach, which some have suggested as a possible site for a shark enclosure, but the mayor points out that it has almost no parking.
The beach is also opposite where a three-metre bull shark was caught by a young fisherman on Wednesday evening, prompting the council to once again close its riverside beaches.
On a post he said was removed because of the abuse he’d received, the young fisherman shared a picture of the shark and described its capture as an hour of “hanging on for dear life”. In a subsequent post he said he hadn’t been aiming to catch a shark that size and it had been released.
He also claimed he wanted to repost the image so people were aware of the size of sharks that swim in the river.
The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development said it was trying to contact the poster.
Ms Fitzhardinge said subsequent to Ms Berry’s death, it was emerging that bull shark sightings in the river were much more common than was being reported to authorities.
“I know there’s a group that swim from the Swan Yacht Club through to Stirling Bridge and they all wear those devices on their ankles, so they are very aware of the bull sharks,” she said.
“A lot of solutions have come out of the woodwork, but whatever we do it would have to be evidence-based.
“Number one is we need to know more about bull sharks; people have talked about a tagging program which might be something to help us understand them more.”
Ms Fitzhardinge said Saturday’s attack had been the first time she’d heard much about bull sharks, though she knew they were in the river.
“One of the things I have heard is it is mating season, and bull sharks can swim between fresh and salty water, so they are probably moving around in that part of the river quite regularly at this time. People have been saying that shark numbers have increased, and if there’s science around that, we may need to change our behaviour.”
by STEVE GRANT