A shark expert has called a Taree man’s close encounter with a large hammerhead shark at South West Rocks before Christmas “a privilege”.
Daniel Bucher, an Associate Professor of marine biology and fishery science at Southern Cross University in Lismore, said “spotting a big hammerhead is a bit of a privilege these days”.
He said while hammerheads aren’t particularly dangerous to humans, “like a dog, any shark in the right mood can be dangerous.”
“They can be dangerous but they're not usually a surface feeder,” he said of hammerheads.
Professor Bucher said that the size of the shark meant it could be a young great hammerhead, the largest of the hammerhead species.
He said that the species was “quite rare”, with the shark particularly vulnerable to getting trapped in nets.
Taree man Terry Wells was stand-up paddle boarding at Trial Bay beach around 11am on Wednesday December 21, when he noticed a small fin moving in the water.
He recognised it as a shark fin but instead of turning back to shore, he did the opposite.
“It was going towards the rocks so I started to follow it to see what type of shark it was.
“It got closer to the sand bank and I saw it come higher and the dorsal fin doubled in size.”
The shark then moved towards Terry and his board.
“He circled me three times and was getting closer each time. The last time he was probably 10 feet away from me.”
As Terry looked at the shark he determined it was a three-metre long hammerhead.
“At first I thought it was really good just looking at him but the closer he got with each circle I started to wonder what was going to happen.”
Terry smacked his paddle on the water and the shark reacted by darting towards it, before changing his path.
“He turned back to go towards the swimmers and then he started to turn around and head back to sea.”
Terry said that is when a spotting helicopter came down about 40 feet above the water, staying there until they made sure the shark had left the area.