And why it could be a good thing for everyone.
As summer’s official arrival draws near, Australia’s busiest beach, Bondi, is reeling from a series of shark sightings. Yes, even Bondi, that golden-sand utopia where ambitious hipsters frolic amongst the rich and famous, yogis spill from every door and models strut the promenade for their morning exercise, is not a shark-free zone.
Yesterday the beach was closed after multiple shark sightings. In the morning, long-time local, Shannon Hardaker, was running a surf lesson when he saw a large fin knifing through the water at North Bondi, just beyond the break zone. He pulled the group in and notified the lifeguards who subsequently sounded the alarm.
Shortly after mid-day, local surfer, Michael Malouf, was in the water when a large school of fish rushed towards him. Instinctively spooked he turned and made his way into shore. At the same moment, former professional surfer, Beau Walker, was running down the beach to warn Mike that a big shark (estimate 12-15 ft) had surfaced behind him just after he spun around. “I’m not that rattled because I didn’t actually see it,” Malouf later told Tracks.
The day before the two Bondi incidents, several surfers had been chased in by a shark at nearby Tamarama.
Some of you in other parts of Australia are probably mildly amused that Bondi, the land of the beautiful people, is being snapped back to reality by a few toothy cameos. However, is it possible that a series of shark sightings at a high profile beach can serve a broader purpose?
The Bondi surfers and bathers are no more important than anyone else, but like it or not they do get a lot of attention. When sharks show up the many businesses dependent upon tourism get a little edgy. The men in grey suits show up often enough and property prices might even slide. Soon, politicians on all levels are forced into action.
Again, it must be reiterated that this is all being expressed without wanting to be in any way insensitive towards other families and communities that have been affected by shark attacks.
Sharks will always be a factor at beaches around Australia. However, locations like Bondi have the advantage of public attention and more money to invest in research and solutions.
It’s arguable that communities like Bondi (part of the Waverley Council) should use their extensive resources to lead the way with research into innovative ways of addressing the shark problem. The end goal is not just to protect the hordes and hipsters who regularly descend upon Sydney’s eastern beaches, but to share the findings with communities around Australia who are seeking ways of keeping their beaches safe. Many great discoveries have their origins in science fiction. Is it too much to imagine there may one day be a solution to the shark problem that does not involve culling or drum lines?