Australian officials say a 28-year-old man was killed Saturday when a Great White shark pulled him under while he was fishing with a group of colleagues off the south coast of the continent. He was part of a spear-fishing group set to participate in a competition the next day, police say.
Yahoo 7 reported Feb. 9 that the victim -- whose name has yet to be released as authorities attempt to locate family for notification -- had gone out into the waters off of Goldsmith Beach, near Edithburgh, with a group of spear fishermen when he suddenly went missing.
According to the Daily Mail, witnesses say that they saw the victim thrashing about just before he disappeared. This occurred, they said, just after what appeared to be a Great White shark was seen approaching.
Police reported that several witnesses were traumatized by seeing the shark attack.
"Some of them did witness it. From what we can gather they were an experienced group of fisherman and they were on the peninsula to participate in a spearfishing competition tomorrow," Sergeant Mark Stuart stated. "They were diving loosely in a group, probably within a few hundred metres of each other."
The Great White shark is believed to be the same shark locals have reported seeing in the area for the past week.
A police helicopter and water operations craft were on scene as the search for the missing man was conducted. A warning was issued for swimmers between Edithburgh and Port Moorowie to leave the water.
The shark attack comes as Australia authorities have been castigated for initiated a shark culling, allowing the hunting and killing of Great White, tiger, and Bull sharks -- as long as they are over three meters (roughly ten feet) long -- along Australia's coasts. Opponents of the cull say that there is no scientific evidence to support killing the sharks, that no proof exists that swimmers, surfers, and tourists will be any safer from shark attacks after to the kills.
“We are never going to stop shark attacks,” said Colin Simpfendorfer, director of the Center for Sustainable Tropical Fisheries and Aquaculture at James Cook University in Townsville, Australia. He has studied sharks for 28 years. “Science doesn’t support the cull,” he told the Washington Post.
Still, the government's reaction to people being killed by sharks is not just a way to alleviate fears of locals but also to quell fears of tourists. Shark attacks precipitate a drop-off in tourism to beaches, especially to beaches where there's been a recorded shark attack.
Great whites, which is believed to be the species of shark that attacked the Goldsmith Beach victim, are responsible as many as one-third and may account for half of all shark attacks. The sometimes 5,000-pound predator is actually protected under Australia law -- but an exemption was made for the cull.
According to SharkAttackFile.info, there was a total of 45 reported shark attacks in Australian waters in the past three years. Of those, 34 people suffered various degrees of injury. Ten of those 34 attacks resulted in fatalities.