Tathra shark attack 'a tragedy waiting to happen'

The woman missing after a presumed shark attack on the NSW South Coast was a member of a group that raised concerns two years ago about illegal shark fishing at Tathra Wharf.

Christine Armstrong, 63, from Tathra, is believed to have been killed in a shark attack Thursday and was a member of the Tathra Surf Life Saving Club.

Two years ago the club said it was alarmed by shark luring to the area and surf boat captain Sharon Clarke at the time said it was a tragedy waiting to happen.

“There are some keen ones who go every morning no matter what, but I haven’t swum myself this year after reports of shark fishing at Tathra Wharf,” she said.

“And there are plenty of others who are hesitant now, knowing it’s going on.

“It also doesn’t make a lifesaver’s job easy either.”

In March 2012, Bega Valley Shire Council senior ranger Peter Miles said he received calls about the issue and that further inquiries were being made.

Tathra Beach has been closed following a shark attack Thursday. PHOTO: BEN SMYTH, Bega District News.

Tathra Beach has been closed following a shark attack Thursday. PHOTO: BEN SMYTH, Bega District News.

Mr Miles Thursday said they have been advised not to comment on anything relating to the shark attack.

Christine Armstrong

Christine Armstrong

It is believed Department of Primary Industries fisheries officers will conduct an investigation at Tathra once a shark attack can be confirmed.

Shark fishing is illegal at Tathra Wharf with the penalty for disobeying a BVSC public ordinance a $200 fine.

According to a NSW Department of Primary Industries, harming endangered species such as a grey nurse shark carries a maximum penalty of $220,000 and/or two years’ jail.

Ms Armstong was swimming with a social group of members and non-members when she went missing.

Club members involved in the incident are receiving counselling and it is expected that this unfolding tragedy will impact significantly on the small coastal community.

Tathra beach is closed and although nearby beaches north and south are unpatrolled at this time of year, Surf Life Saving is advising swimmers to stay clear of the water until further notice.

The attack in Tathra brings the numbers of "unprovoked" fatal shark attack in NSW to 47 in the past 100 years.

At 6.30pm on Thursday there was still no word on what kind of shark was responsible for Mrs Armstrong's death.

Southern Cross University shark expert Daniel Bucher said bronze whaler sharks were commonly sighted on the South Coast although they were usually responsible for single bite attacks.

"Bronze whalers do come in close to the shore in calmer water conditions looking for fish, particularly behind the breaking line of the surf," he said.

Mr Bucher said it would extremely uncommon for a great white shark to come so close to shore.