An Aussie summer: sharks, croc, floods and bushfires

Mon Jan 5, 2009 3:25am EST
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By Michael Perry

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Sharks, crocodiles, flooding outback rivers and bushfires -- it must be summer in Australia.

Four Sydney beaches including Bondi were closed on Sunday as hammerhead sharks fed on squid close to swimmers, prompting warnings on Monday that shark numbers may be on the rise off Australian cities.

A 51-year-old Australian man was killed by a Great White Shark on December 27 while he was snorkeling off a beach south of Perth in Western Australia.

Helicopter shark patrols now buzz Perth's beaches daily since the killing, copying the summertime aerial patrols over Sydney.

Many shark species, including the Great White, are protected in Australian waters and some wildlife officials believe they are venturing closer to popular beaches.

New South Wales Department of Environment spokesman John Dengate said improved water quality in Sydney, due partly to cleaner ocean sewage outfalls, was attracting more sharks.

"As all the pollution controls have got tighter and tighter the water quality has got better," Dengate told local media.

"There's more fish to eat, which means that things that eat fish like sharks are attracted to the area."   Continued...

<p>A woman talks with her friends during a sunny morning at Bondi beach in Sydney, December 30, 2008. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz</p>