An unsettling detail in the background of a family beach snap has been identified by an expert, following intense speculation by community members.
After an unconfirmed shark sighting, the SES Chelsea Unit in Melbourne posted a photo from Carrum Beach by a parent who was simply taking a sweet snap of his family on Sunday morning.
"We received a message from a family, who follow our page, who were at Carrum Beach, earlier in the morning," they said on their Facebook page. "It was their little one's first visit to the beach, and the gentleman’s partner grabbed a couple of snaps to record the day."
"Later, when they got home, and looked at the pictures, they noticed something in the shallow water, just behind them, was this our shark?"
In the seemingly innocent photo, a toddler is seen waving at the camera with her dad on the sand, and behind them in the water is a dark fin gliding in the water, not far away from two men and a dog. Everyone seems to be blissfully unaware of the creature.
Social Media Users react to photo
The post garnered a lot of interest, with more than 100 people sharing their thoughts.
"It’s not a dolphin or a sting ray?" one person asked. "They come fairly close to the shore. Jesus though… not keen to take the whippet for a swim now."
"It's highly unlikely that a shark cruising in the shallows would not be seen and those in the photo not aware. Sharks when cruising shallows travel in line with the beach and are easy to see," another said.
Expert elaborates on sighting at Melbourne beach
According to the Victoria Fisheries Authority (VFA), the mysterious sea creature "could not be verified by Life Saving Victoria or the VFA," however the Research Leader of the Southern Shark Ecology Group, Professor Charlie Huveneers, believes it to be a sting ray.
"The quality of the photo does not allow me to confirm the species, but based on the shape, it does not seem like a shark dorsal fin and is more likely to be the wing of a Southern Eagle Ray, which are often found in shallow areas and along beaches," he told Yahoo News Australia.
The Southern Eagle Ray is classified as 'near threatened' and can be found in Southern Australia and potentially New Zealand.
As for shark sightings, the VFA said in a statement that “with more people out and about during summer holidays and warm weather, it’s normal to receive increased reports of shark sightings from the community.”
Shark fatalities are not common in the state of Victoria, with none being reported in over 30 years. However as always, people are urged to be mindful when stepping into the water.
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