South Australia shark attacks prompt early beach patrols

A spate of shocking shark attacks has pushed South Australian authorities to bring forward aerial beach patrols two weeks earlier than planned, but some in the community say more needs to be done to protect swimmers.

The state has recorded four serious attacks this year, including two fatalities.

In May, teacher Simon Baccanello was believed to have been killed by a shark while surfing at Walkers Rock near Ellison on the west coast.

A witness claims he saw a shark drag Mr Baccanello underwater.

Then on October 2, swimmer Pam Cook was mauled by a shark during her regular morning dip at the small seaside town of Beachport.

On October 31, surfer Tod Gendle was killed by a shark while he was surfing near Streaky Bay, with a monster 4m great white thought to be the culprit.

Last Friday, diver Bridgette O’Shannessy was mauled by a shark at Port Noarlunga.

The shark attacked her face and she has gone through two rounds of surgery at Flinders Medical Centre.

The government announced on Tuesday it would begin aerial patrols at the state’s high-risk beaches on November 18, two weeks earlier than planned.

“A full complement of shark surveillance aircraft will return to the skies this Saturday … to monitor beaches from North Haven to Rapid Bay and between Victor Harbor and the Murray Mouth,” the government stated.

“The fixed-wing aircraft will fly daily until Easter over metropolitan areas, with flights to be extended to the south coast on weekends, school and public holidays, providing multiple flights over our highest populated and aquatic activity beaches.”

The fixed-wing patrols, a regular summer sight in South Australia since 2003, boast the words “shark patrol” in large lettering on the wing underside and are fitted with a siren to warn beachgoers.

“In the event of a sighting that may pose a risk to the public, the aircraft will fly continuous orbits over the area and sound the siren, at which time people should immediately leave the water,” SES chief officer Chris Beattie said.

The move follows public calls for greater protections for swimmers, with Surf Life Saving SA and the Greens pushing for more measures.

South Australia, unlike NSW and Queensland, does not use drum lines, nets or tagging to manage sharks.

SLSSA chief executive Damien Marangon said the government should consider a tracking and surveillance program and the Greens advocate subsidising shark deterrent devices, which swimmers wear in the water.

“So far the West Australian government has subsidised more than 4000 personal shark deterrent devices for ocean goers in an attempt to see them more widely adopted by surfers, divers and swimmers,” Greens healthy oceans spokesman Peter Whish-Wilson said on Monday.

“There are many simple options to reduce risks at our popular beaches and surf spots and I urge (South Australian) Premier (Peter) Malinauskas to listen to the advice of experts and roll out these measures.”

Primary Industries Minister Clare Scriven said the government would continue to “monitor” the situation for any improvements to prevention methods.

Originally published as SA ups shark patrols post attacks as public seeks enhanced safety