-- A large number of sharks were spotted alarmingly close to shore in southeastern Australia today as families flock to the beautiful beaches to enjoy the warm weather and time off from school.
A surveillance helicopter and drones circling the skies over the New South Wales coast captured "a large number of white, bull and whaler sharks" lurking in the shallow waters near the shoreline of the Forster-Tuncurry region today. The sharks were feeding on a "bait ball," a giant school of small fish grouped tightly together in a ball-like formation when they are threatened by predators, according to the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries.
A whale and a swarm of seabirds were also seen joining in on the feast.
The New South Wales Department of Primary Industries released footage of the feeding frenzy and urged people to stay out of the water until the area was safe.
“The local fishers say that normally this type of activity is way offshore and so it seems unusual to be so close to shore this year,” Vic Peddemors, who heads the shark research section of the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, told told 9 News Australia. “This is the first time I’ve ever seen this in New South Wales."
Peddemors did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.
The sightings come amid spring weather and the start of school holidays in the southeastern state. Aerial surveillance of the coastal waters will continue daily throughout school vacations. Sirens fastened to the surveillance drones will alert swimmers and surfers if a shark is spotted nearby, according to Sarah Fairful of the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries.
"Sharks are a natural part of our environment," Fairful said in a Sept. 19 statement, announcing the aerial surveillance trials. "However, a better awareness and understanding of sharks and their behavior can help everyone enjoy the beach and reduce their risk of a shark encounter these school holidays."