Nick Carroll: The Terrible Attack at Greenmount Will Blow the Shark Narrative To Pieces, Again

9 Sep 2020 99 Share

Photo: From the User Photo Gallery by Saa1977

Photo: From the User Photo Gallery by Saa1977

COASTALWATCH | NICK CARROLL

It Can't Go On

People kept surfing. That was one of the boggling things about the fatal shark attack at Greenmount yesterday arvo. The attack followed the only discernible rule of its kind — a shark and a person were in the same water at the same time — and if you weren’t right there to witness it, you wouldn’t have known.

So they kept surfing, further up the line toward Snapper, and even paddling through the little corner of sand where the attack occurred.

Maybe they couldn’t believe it. A shark attack in, of all places, Greenmount?

This is the most popular surf zone in the world.

Yet it happened, and if you were up close to it, you may never be able to forget it. The victim was Nick Slater, 46. The shark attacked Nick and his surfboard, and his left leg was in the way. Witness Jade Parker told the SMH: “I ran down to the beach, dropped my board and sort of trudged through the lineup to get to him. There was probably about three other people in the water trying to pull him in by then. He was pretty much already gone by then. From the groin to his knee was just — there was nothing there.”

This is the third fatal attack in Queensland waters in 2020. When you add the one on Rob Pedretti at Kingscliff in June, that makes four. Four fatal attacks is the global average over the past 50 years. It’s now been equalled within a few hundred nautical miles of Australian coastline.

That is to say nothing of non-fatal attacks in the same period, like the one on Chantelle Doyle three weeks ago in Port Macquarie.

The Greenmount stretch is arguably the most shark protected piece of coast in Australia. Meshing is set off Coolangatta beach. Drumlines are laid all the way across the bay from outside Snapper through to Surfers Paradise itself.

It’s been this way for generations. The last fatal attack on the Goldy was at Surfers Paradise in 1958. That was followed four years later, in 1962, by a non-fatal attack at Greenmount. Immediately after that incident, Queensland initiated its shark control program.

Like the meshing off Sydney beaches, it’s been so successful that there’s been increasing calls for it to be relaxed. Images of whale calves caught in shark nets, and a steady toll of non-target species, have fuelled protests against meshing use.

In response, Queensland’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries had been considering a trial plan to replace meshing in the winter months, and going with drumlines only in 2021.

You can bet that plan’s just been blown to bits. In fact, this attack may have blown the whole shark narrative to bits, again, the way it was after the Ballina/Byron attacks of 2014-15.

We thought we knew what was up back then, and we didn’t.

What now? Does anyone think this can just go on, like normal? If you can be killed by a shark at Greenmount Beach … like a mate of mine said last night, “I guess now it can happen anywhere.”

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