LAKE Macquarie is one of the Hunter Region's great natural attractions. Despite years of pollution pressures from the various coal-fired power stations that have dotted its shores over the decades, it is regarded as being in remarkably good shape, environmentally.
There is little doubt, either, that it has benefited from a NSW government decision almost 20 years ago to end commercial fishing in the Lake. Controversial at the time, it is credited with a substantial increase in marine stocks.
And that means sharks as well as fish.
Even so, despite a number of photos and videos taken in recent years of quite sizeable sharks in the Lake, the perception remains that it's not the sort of place that anyone within a reasonable distance of the shore would be risking an attack.
Time will tell, of course, but it may be that Saturday evening's mauling of a swimmer at Yarrawonga Park, on the Morisset peninsula, tilts the fear factor towards greater caution, at least for a while.
Authorities are yet to determine what breed of shark bit the man on the arm, but bull sharks, hammerheads and white sharks have all been sighted in the Lake over the years.
A shark attack is not the only thing that we, as humans, risk when we immerse ourselves in the balm of salt water.
The summer holidays are all too sadly the peak of drowning season, and the first weeks of 2021 have witnessed a welter of fatalities, including the death of a 20-year-old man at Coffs Harbour on Thursday, followed by three men who died after being swept from rocks while fishing at Port Kembla on Friday.
Another seven people have drowned in Victoria in the past fortnight.
The January 26 public holiday is a traditionally bad day for lifesavers and other rescue authorities, and the Newcastle Herald can only join with others and urge everyone to take care in the water - whether it's the surf, the lake, a river, a dam or a pool.
As much as coastal Australians might like to think of themselves as amphibious, we are a land-based mammal. Water - especially the ocean - is not our natural environment.
A statistically noticeable increase in shark attacks has given the issue its own version of the "culture wars" - which we will not enter into here.
But we do ask our readers to please take care, and to consider the risks however you find your aquatic pleasures.
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