FORMER staff at the defunct Cronulla Fisheries Research Centre said the public needed to be aware of the risk of a shark attack in Port Hacking.
The researchers repeated claims first made two years ago that the government suppressed research pointing to the danger, including that a two-metre bull shark was caught near Grays Point in February 2012.
Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson denied suppressing research, while a departmental spokeswoman said there was no heightened danger to the public.
A former staffer at the Cronulla centre contacted the Leader and said he was ‘‘greatly concerned’’ the research was not released.
‘‘At this time of year, the risk of shark attacks, while small, is nevertheless heightened,’’ he said.
‘‘Research we did some time ago showed the presence of bull sharks in Port Hacking, up near Grays Point.’’
The former staff member and other ex-colleagues said the research was suppressed because it undermined the decision to close the Fisheries centre.
They said they had to speak out anonymously because they hoped to have future dealings with the government.
A 2012 Channel 9 news report said NSW Fisheries staff were ordered not to tell the public a two-metre bull shark was caught in Port Hacking, despite safety concerns.
The report said NSW Fisheries usually announced when a shark was caught in a new waterway.
A spokesman for Ms Hogkinson told the Leader the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) did not suppress any of its research.
‘‘Once DPI projects have been completed or major milestones have been reached, research findings are made publicly available either through internal reports found on the DPI website or scientific journal articles,’’ he said.
‘‘The bull shark tagging program is focused on the Sydney region and includes gates across every major estuary in NSW.
‘‘At the time of the [closure of the Cronulla centre] there was no shark research specifically focused on Port Hacking.’’
A Department of Primary Industries spokeswoman said as part of the ongoing research program, a two-metre male bull shark was caught upstream near Grays Point in February 2012.
It was tagged so its movements could be monitored, and released.
‘‘There was only one shark tagged in this estuary,’’ she said.
The spokeswoman said the matter was reported at the time by the Leader and Channel 9.
‘‘It is not departmental practice to inform the public every single time a shark is captured and tagged,’’ she said.
‘‘This would heighten the public’s fear of the species.
‘‘The presence of sharks should not alarm people.’’
BRUCE Sigal, who operates the tourism award-winning business Bundeena Kayaks, allayed concerns.
‘‘I have lived on this river my whole life and never seen a shark,’’ he said.
‘‘I grew up at Grays Point, moved to Bundeena in 1997 and started the business 12 to 13 years ago.
‘‘I am not saying they are not out there — it is their territory — but from what I know, they are more likely to be around in the early morning and late afternoon.’’
But a stand-up paddleboarder used the website seabreeze.com.au to tell of an experience he had last June when the water was murky after heavy rain.
‘‘Set off from Yowie Bay, down Lilli Pilli channel and headed east along mad mile,’’ wrote yowiesup.
‘‘About opposite Little Turriel Bay a (182 centimetre)-plus shark (likely bull) cut the water in front of me and cruised past to starboard.
‘‘I stopped for a moment, raised the paddle ready for a defensive sweep but obviously he wasn’t interested.
‘‘I then turned around, trying not to fall off (not used to kick turns on this board yet) and high-tailed it back.
‘‘No one was around and I am glad there was no boat wash to potentially capsize me.
‘‘I had thoughts of him stalking me, but didn’t see him again.’’
Yowiesup wrote that he had surfed around Cronulla for years and swum in Port Hacking over summer but had only once before seen a ‘‘tiny’’ shark while he was kayaking near Audley.
‘‘This confirms to me, however, there are moderate-size Noahs in the Hacking.’’ he wrote.
‘‘So in the dirty water take care guys — especially if falling off in Baysurf.’’
Have you seen bull sharks or other shark species in Port Hacking?