Tag: Photo Gary Johnson
Every day, in the soft morning light, hardy souls venture out into the Indian Ocean from Cottesloe Beach.
- Cottesloe Beach installed a shark barrier in November last year to improve safety
- Mayor Philip Angers says there are more swimmers and beachgoers as a result
- Shark prevention measures are in focus following a fatal attack off Esperance
They stroke across the bay, regardless of wind or weather.
Many have wispy white hair and the kind of skin you get after a lifetime in the sun.
They remember vividly when Ken Crew was killed by a shark while swimming in knee-deep water at North Cottesloe in 2000 and the suspected fatal shark attack on Bryn Martin in 2011.
But this year, something is different. Their ranks have grown.
The Town of Cottesloe has put up a shark net and it has attracting ocean swimmers in their droves.
As he emerged from the surf, Chris Chalwell confirmed it was the net that had drawn him here — he was not game enough to swim at Cottesloe before it.
“I think it’s a wonderful addition to Cottesloe Beach, I can come down here and I feel quite safe,” he said.
“It’s just fantastic to swim out there with that knowledge, or that hope, actually, that that barrier will work.”
Mr Chalwell said swimming in the shark net was the safest he could feel.
“I’ve actually been lucky enough to see a seal on the other side of the net, looking back at me, saying ‘how do I get onto your side’?” he said.
“So it gives you an idea or a feeling of safety.”
Nets dotted up and down the coast
Shark attacks were again front of mind in WA this week after Gary Johnson was killed on Sunday while diving off the coast of Esperance.
The search for Mr Johnson’s body was called off by police this morning, pending any new information being received.
In an all-too-familiar drill, the attack has left concerned community members calling for more action to protect ocean users, the WA Government restating the measures it is taking, and a grieving family calling for calm, saying their loved one knew the risks.
Until now, Chantal Barrett has only ever done distance swimming at Cottesloe in organised events.
“It almost creates a nice sea lane swimming pool, but you’re always feeling safe as well,” she said.
“It definitely gets everyone outside, being fit, happy, active. I definitely see a lot more people swimming and training down here.”
Other shark nets are dotted along the WA coastline, including at Sorrento in Perth’s northern suburbs, Coogee near Fremantle and in the regional towns of Dunsborough and Albany.
Des Lord, who swims in the nets at Coogee and Dunsborough, was impressed with Cottesloe’s barrier.
“If you see the size of the mesh of the net, you’d probably get some small wobbegong-type sharks through, but nothing more than that,” he said.
The beach nets are part of a range of measures different levels of government have employed across WA to help mitigate as much as possible the risk of shark attacks.
Since February 2019 a smart drumline trial off Gracetown has caught and tagged two great white sharks.
In 2017, the State Government introduced a $200 rebate on shark deterrent devices to make them more accessible to divers and swimmers.
Enhanced monitoring has also been installed at beaches including Gracetown and a SharkSmart app has been launched to better track shark activity.
According to WA Fisheries Minister Peter Tinley, there are an estimated 1,600 endangered white pointer sharks between WA and Victoria.
Tourists think Australia is ‘full of sharks’
Cottesloe Mayor Philip Angers said he welcomed the positive response to the net.
“We’re now getting very strong crowds very early in the morning, like 5:30am, where people would never swim before, mainly because that’s the dusk and dawn period and people are a bit scared,” he said.
“That goes through until about 7:30am, quarter to eight, and then after that we tend to get a lot of tourists and just ordinary beachgoers, who probably don’t want to do laps for the Rottnest Swim but they just enjoy the beach.”
The perceived boost to tourism and local businesses, in particular, has pleased Mr Angers.
“I looked the other day when I was here and I went past so many hire cars,” he said.
“Tourists tend to think Australia is just full of sharks.
“In reality the risk of a shark attack is very low, but I think it’s in your mind and the net or barrier takes that away.”