News

Scientists identify the shark that leapt at surf contest

What appears to be a shark was captured leaping from the water during the Coffs Harbour Boardriders contest at Macauley's on Sunday.
What appears to be a shark was captured leaping from the water during the Coffs Harbour Boardriders contest at Macauley's on Sunday. Steph Bellamy
Department of Primary Industries scientists believe the jumping shark captured off Coffs Harbour's Macauleys Headland may have been a spinner shark.
Department of Primary Industries scientists believe the jumping shark captured off Coffs Harbour's Macauleys Headland may have been a spinner shark.

UPDATE: DEPARTMENT of Primary Industries scientists believe a spinner shark may have been the species of shark captured leaping near board riders at Macauley's Headland.

Even thought the image was taken on a smart phone from distance and the shark's tail is not visible above the water, DPI staff say there appears to be enough detail to indicate it is a spinner shark and quite a large one at that.

Spinner sharks are commonly found in New South Wales waters, as far south as Jervis Bay, and are renowned for breaching and leaping above the surface.

They are named after the spinning leaps they perform while chasing prey.

When feeding, spinner sharks will speed vertically through a bait school, while spinning on their axis and erupting from the water.

This supports surfers claims that bait fish were seen in the water prior to the sighting.

Spinner sharks grow to an average size of two metres and have finely serrated teeth.

Scientists say they do no pose a substantial risk to humans as they do not perceive large mammals as prey.

 

MONDAY 6AM:

A PHOTO has surfaced of a shark leaping from the water during a surf contest in Coffs Harbour on Sunday.

The shark reportedly leapt into the air twice on Sunday as the mums of the Coffs Harbour Boardriders Club were in the water during a competition heat below Macauleys Headland.

Landing metres from surfers, the shark caused a frenzy in the water as the mothers club quickly paddled to the safety of the shoreline.  

The photo was taken by Steph Bellamy, who was watching on at the time. 

"I saw a splash and wondered what it was, than I hit the button on the camera wondering if I got it, then when I checked the picture I couldn't believe it," Steph said.

"This was a special one-off mums heat that was staged for the first time and they didn't even get waves."

She said the alarm was raised once the shark sighting was confirmed, but by that time many of the surfers in the water were already on their way to the beach.

"It was real," surfer Sharni Winkler said.

"My arms are so sore from paddling back into shore, but at least I still have arms," she joked.

Her husband former ASP tour competitor and local surf school owner Lee Winkler was also in the water at the time, about 30 metres from where the shark breached.

He said he and other onlookers thought it was a pelagic fish at first, but for those closest to where it surfaced there was no mistaking with it was.

"I have never seen 10 women paddle that quickly to the beach before," Lee said.

"Yeah I thought it was a tuna or a fish, but when the image came through on the beach I couldn't believe it an almighty shark jumping through the line-up."

Organisers monitored the break for 15-minutes before sending the open men's heat back into the water.

The species of shark is unconfirmed at this stage with suggestions it may have been a spinner shark, a thresher or a mako.  

The NSW Department of Primary Industries has been sent the image and fisheries researchers are analysing the possibilities.

The mums brigade at the Coffs Harbour Boardriders contest had their heat rudely interrupted by a leaping shark on Sunday.
The mums brigade at the Coffs Harbour Boardriders contest had their heat rudely interrupted by a leaping shark on Sunday.

 

Topics:  coffs harbour editors picks



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