Shark sighting: Beach closed for first time in 10 years
A POSSIBLE shark sighting resulted in Yamba Main Beach being closed for the first time in a decade.
The sighting happened at about 11am, right in the middle of Yamba Surf Lifesaving Club's Nippers program.
Swimmers were ordered out of the water for about an hour as the club's IRB crew conducted a thorough search of the bay.
"One of our IRB drivers said he possibly saw something that could have been a shark," Yamba SLSC lifesaving director James Ryan said.
"As part of our duty of care we got everyone out of the water, did a couple of sweeps, nothing was sighted, and reopened the beach after about an hour.
"It's the first beach closure I've had to do in my 10 years of involvement."
Mr Ryan said the procedures carried out by the club were not affected by the increased shark activity and publicity of the issue at beaches such as Ballina, Lennox Head and Evans Head in the Northern Rivers.
"It was just standard practice in our duty of care to the public," he said.
"With everything that's been going on up north, it's better to be safe than sorry."
During the club's busiest period of the week, there was understandably a lot of curiosity among the hundreds of onlookers on the beach, including mostly children.
"You could imagine the reaction," Mr Ryan said. "Everyone asking 'where is it? How big is it? What was it?
"But as soon as we put the flags back up everyone ran in, 'thankyou, we can go swimming again'."
Yamba SLSC president Joe Dougherty, who was on the beach during the evacuation, said there was an "element of excitement", rather than fear, among the beachgoers.
"It certainly didn't seem to deter anyone," Mr Dougherty said.
"For some of the nippers and younger kids there was an element of excitement to be honest.
"Everyone was happy to get out of the water and wait until they were given the all clear to get back in the water.
"It's fairly unusual for around here and hopefully it stays that way."
An app from Dorsal Shark Reports - Australia keeps beach users such as lifesaving clubs up to date with shark sightings throughout Australia.
Earlier this year the NSW Department of Primary Industries deployed a shark listening station 500m off Yamba Main Beach.
Mr Ryan said club numbers were healthy despite an increased focus on shark activity, indicating that public perception towards water safety has not been adversely affected in recent years on the Clarence Coast.
"We've got a really good nippers crew at the moment and a great committee doing all the right things," he said.
"These services like the Dorsal App are a good thing. It gives you an idea of what they're doing out there.
"I've surfed since i was eight years old. But I supposed if you are worried about sharks you don't go in the water."