Swimmers and surfers were ordered to evacuate a popular NSW beach on Monday after 60 bull sharks were spotted in the water.
The sharks, which were around two metres long, were seen swimming around Lighthouse Beach in Ballina.
Officials from Surf Life Saving NSW started clearing the water and the beach was officially closed about three hours later.
Garry Meredith from Surf Life Saving NSW told The Northern Star he’d ‘never seen anything like it’.
It is thought the sharks had gathered to feed as the tide was going out.
Mr Meredith said the clarity of the water was ‘amazing’ allowing the sharks to be spotted by helicopters and bystanders.
But despite warning and sirens, Ballina Shire mayor David Wright said about 60 to 50 surfers remained in the surf.
Cr Wright said: ‘The break right on North Wall was really working, and that’s where (the sharks) were’.
‘The surf was great but just (nearby), that’s where a lot of the sharks were.
‘Once again, we’ve got people, in my opinion, being selfish when they know that the sharks are there.’
Cr Wright said he was frustrated that volunteers had to spend their public holiday trying to keep people refusing to leave the water safe, and risking their own safety in the process.
There have been a number of shark-related incidents in Ballina in the past decade.
In 2018, a shark ripped a chunk out of a kitesurfer’s board and a white shark attacked another surfer in the same year.
There were a total of 11 attacks in the northern NSW area between 2014 and 2016.
A number of shark nets were installed to keep swimmers safe but they were removed in 2018 over fears they could pose a risk to migrating whales.
The situation continues to be monitored by drones.