Sharks and sausages – the risks are small but is it worth it?

One of my favourite quotes from medical school was “There are consistently more people in Queensland killed by choking on sausages than by shark attacks.”  I liked the quote so much it inspired me to write a play called “Death by Sausage”, which toured around South East Queensland in 2010. DEATH_BY_SAUSAGE

It highlighted to me how ridiculous is society’s fear of shark attacks, given how unlikely they are statistically.

I live about 200 metres from Lighthouse Beach in Ballina.   It is once again in the national news following a serious shark attack this morning:  the 4th in under two years, including a fatal one.

At least 3 of the attacks (I’m not sure about the 4th) have been near “the wall” – where the Richmond River meets the ocean.  With the out-flowing river water there are lots of nutrients, lots of fish and lots of sharks. I’m sure it is more complex than this but the upshot is that this is a very small area where sharks particularly love to hang out.

I love “my” little beach – less than a kilometre long – and visit it daily. I no longer go out past about waist deep water though.  It seems I’ve bought into the shark attack fear I scoffed at for so many years.  My justification is as follows:

Lighthouse beach, Ballina

While acknowledging that the chance of a shark attack is still rather small, this is the very spot where these recent attacks have occurred, while there are many, many kilometres of good surfing beaches in the local area without any reported attacks. Why would anyone choose to swim/ surf near “the wall” at Lighthouse Beach?

I was on Lighthouse beach this morning, about 90 minutes before the attack happened.   I know (by sight only) the local 17-year-old who was attacked and have talked to him and his mates once or twice.  I’m told he was one of the surfers who, earlier this year, protested against the installation of a shark barrier at the very spot he was attacked today, considering it unnecessary.  I believe he is expected to make a full recovery, thank goodness. I wish him all the best.

I don’t doubt that there are many more serious injuries from sausages than sharks in Queensland, but I’m betting this statistic doesn’t hold true for those who swim/surf near “the wall” at Lighthouse Beach, Ballina.

I’m not taking my chances… with sausages, or with sharks.  😉