Sydney are “preparing for an invasion of killer sharks this summer” according to a recent article in The Daily Telegraph. The gross sensationism is unwarranted and will likely further polarise an already heated debate but it is not without some justification. An unprecedented spike in shark attacks on the NSW North Coast has coastal communities deeply concerned and the pattern is undeniably heading south.

There have been 14 shark attacks this year in NSW – most between Evans Head and Byron but the most recent further south. Last month a body boarder was bitten at Lighthouse Beach, near Port Macquarie; last week a 65-year-old man was bumped off his surf ski and bitten at Blackhead Beach, Near Forster and a few days ago a surfer was attacked at Shelley Beach on the Central Coast. And those are just the incidents that are making news.

Around the Pacific Palms/Forster region surfers have had numerous close encounters with what they believe to be great whites. Earlier this week a large shark buzzed the line up at Boomerang Beach sending a pack of surfers sprint-paddling for shore. Later that day a big shark freaked two surfers at Celito when it showed itself in the face of a wave heading directly towards them.

There have been a handful of similar occurrences in the last month in this small surfing community. Older surfers I spoke to say they haven’t experienced this much shark activity in 30 years. Few are risking surfing alone or at dawn or dusk. There are a lot of unanswered questions and a feeling that surfers may be acting as the canaries in the coalmine while proper scientific research is conducted and tagging programs rolled out.

With summer approaching the situation is unlikely to improve. Justin Daniels, the latest surfer to be attacked, got away with minor injuries but it was a chilling encounter nonetheless. He was attacked in a gutter close to shore, probably by a bull shark. “Any child could be swimming in the gutter, anyone could have been going for a swim,” he told reporters.

Watch: The Fatal Coast a Tracks Magazine special investigation.