NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Fisheries shark scientists believe a whaler shark is the likely culprit of an attack on a woman at Hyams Beach on Tuesday, January 4.
A DPI spokesperson said the scientists have examined the minor wounds inflicted on the swimmer at Seaman's Beach on the northern end of Hyams Beach.
The spokesperson said that the nature of the wounds do not allow definitive shark species identification; however, they suggest that a whaler shark was involved.
Whaler sharks include varieties such as bull sharks, spinner sharks, dusky, blacktip, and bronze whalers.
Whaler sharks are no strangers to Hymans Beach and have been seen on numerous occasions in large numbers.
In the days before the attack, there were reports of sharks being sighted close to shore by visitors, and some snorkellers also filmed an encounter with a shark.
Sydney visitor Paul Stewart was staying in Hyams Beach for a week just prior to Christmas.
From a rental perched on a high point overlooking the beach, Mr Stewart said he was surprised at just how many sharks he saw relatively close to shore.
"We saw increasing numbers of sharks cruising north up the beach during the week," he said.
"The majority of the time they kept to themselves but they occasionally came close to swimmers.
The DPI spokesperson said the colour of the shark described by Tuesday's victim as well as the fact that three bronze whaler sharks had been spotted in the area, "suggest that this is the species most likely involved in this interaction".
The nature of the wounds to the 42-year-old woman's legs, do not allow a size estimate to be made.
The DPI spokesperson said the waters off the NSW South Coast support numerous species of shark.
"In NSW, the three shark species are responsible for most interactions with humans are white, tiger and bull sharks, all of which have been recorded in nearshore waters on the south coast.
"Hammerhead sharks are generally considered to be harmless, with very few unprovoked bites on humans recorded worldwide," the spokesperson said.
The smooth hammerhead shark occurs along the coast of NSW and is highly unlikely to interact with beach users.
The day of the Hyams Beach incident was considered as "cold" by the victim, which corroborates the 19C water temperature currently being recorded offshore of Sussex Inlet on the NSW DPI listening station (www.sharksmart.nsw.gov.au/current-program).
"As shark body temperature is the same as ambient water temperature, water temperature is unlikely to change fine-scale behaviour," the spokesperson said.
"There is some evidence from an Australia-wide study that the likelihood of an interaction with white sharks increases when there is cooler water close to the shore.
"The probability of an interaction with a whaler shark increased within 1km of a river mouth and peaked in summer months."
Hyams Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Jervis Bay, and is regualarly closed to tourists during summer as parking reaches capacity.
The NSW DPI SharkSmart website (www.sharksmart.nsw.gov.au/staying-safe) provides information on how to be shark smart.
The DPI recommends all NSW beachgoers download the NSW SharkSmart App on their mobile device to ensure they are kept informed of any shark-related activity.
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