Esperance diver warns of increased shark activity

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The Spring-Summer period in Esperance is known among ocean users as a particularly dangerous time of the year for shark activity and two locals have put a warning out to other water users.

Marc Payne, an abalone diver of 29 years, said October and November in particular saw an increase in local shark activity.

“My thoughts are that the sharks are usually around, but for some reason they tend to get a little bit more active and in closer to shore at this time of year,” he said.

“As an abalone diver I’ve got the gear to do the job anyway so it doesn’t really bother me at all if I get an interaction, I just keep working.

“It’s not a nice situation that’s for sure, but we prepare ourselves to deal with that, that’s part of the job.”

Even after three decades and had countless interactions with sharks, Mr Payne said his first encounter was something he would never forget.

“It left me scarred for about 12 months afterwards, it impacted on my diving career,” he said.

“(It scared the shit out of me) It left me scared for some time afterwards.

Mr Payne said it came down to “if you fall off a horse you get back on.”

“In the early days we didn’t really understands as much as we do now about white sharks.

“I’ve spent most of my life trying to learn and understand them, and that’s helped me deal with diving and made me a lot more comfortable in the ocean.

“I’m sort of at peace with the ocean now that I’ve learnt so much about it, it’s just a learning process.”

Ocean Safety Forum organiser Mitch Capelli said more awareness of sharks could help save lives during this period and made special mention of the new shark warning sign on the way to Kelp Beds

“It’s kind of hard to put a time frame on it, it can happen at any time,” he said.

“But going on the data that we’ve gathered over the past few years, it’s definitely these next few months where the chances are definitely increased.”

Mr Capelli said he was in the middle of arranging a meeting with Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly and the Surf Life Saving WA committee regarding shark mitigation in Esperance.

On top of first aid courses earlier in the year, Mr Capelli was hopeful that Surfing WA would soon visit town and run an ocean safety session with the group.

Mr Capelli said the use of burley has been proved to change the behaviour of sharks and warned all ocean users to be mindful of this.

“That’s the next step, trying to communicate and collaborate with the local fisherman – the recreational fishermen, it’s not the local guys.

“Recreational fishermen who are sitting out in their boat chumming up the water, changing the sharks’ behaviour.

“They follow the smell, they come in nice and close and then someone’s in the wrong place at the right time.”

Mr Capelli said this was another example of little things the community could be educated on the improve the safety of all ocean users.