An elite global surfing championship in west Australia was canceled yesterday after two shark attacks near the event, organizers said.
The world’s top male and female surfers had been taking part in the 12-day Margaret River Pro, which is part of the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour, off Australia’s southwest coast since Wednesday last week.
The contest was briefly suspended on Monday after a local surfer’s leg was injured in a shark attack off nearby Gracetown, about 260km south of Perth.
A second surfer, reportedly from Denmark, received a gash to his leg in a second shark encounter, also near Gracetown.
“Today, the WSL has made the difficult decision to cancel the remainder of the Margaret River Pro as a result of exceptional circumstances surrounding this season’s event regarding sharks and the safety of our surfers,” WSL chief Sophie Goldschmidt said in a statement.
While sharks are an “occasional reality” of WSL competitions, the current circumstances are “very unusual and troubling,” the organization said.
The tour’s coleader, Brazilian Italo Ferriera, on Tuesday took to Instagram to express his fears about being in the water, writing in Portuguese that he did not feel comfortable training and competing near the attack sites.
Fellow countryman Gabriel Medina, the 2014 WSL world champion, said on Instagram that he too did not feel safe competing in the area.
Authorities had also issued an alert over a whale carcass off an area beach, concerned the decomposing creature could attract sharks. The carcass was removed from the area on Tuesday.
The cancelation came three years after Australian surfing great Mick Fanning, who retired from the sport this month, made global headlines when he fought off a shark on live TV while competing in the WSL’s J-Bay Open in Jeffreys Bay, South Africa.
Experts say shark attacks are increasing as water sports become more popular and bait fish move closer to shore, but fatalities remain rare.
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