Mon, Oct 24, 2011 - Page 5 News List

Australia hunts for shark, considers cull after attacks

AFP, SYDNEY

Australian authorities were hunting a killer shark yesterday that mauled to death a US diver off the country’s west coast as they considered a cull of the giant marine predators.

George Thomas Wainwright, 32, from Texas, was brutally savaged by what was believed to be a 3m great white shark during a dive off Perth’s Rottnest Island on Saturday.

Wainwright had been in Australia on a work visa for about four months, police said.

Witnesses saw a flurry of bubbles before Wainwright’s body surfaced with horrific injuries. It is the third fatal shark attack off the west coast in two months.

Fisheries officials said a kill order was immediately issued for the shark and six bait lines had been laid in the vicinity of the attack hoping to catch the creature responsible.

Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett said he would consider a shark cull, as well as greater patrols, aerial surveillance and netting off of beaches and boosting the number of sharks fishermen were allowed to catch.

“There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence about the numbers of sharks increasing,” Barnett said. “Culling could be considered if those sharks are staying around popular beach swimming areas.”

However, the premier said sharks were “natural predators” and though he was very concerned at the surge in fatalities there was little that could be done.

“I think most people who fish and dive understand this is the domain of marine life and the shark is the top predator,” he said.

Swimmer Bryn Martin, 64, was thought to have been taken by a great white, also known as a white pointer, two weeks ago after vanishing off Perth’s Cottesloe Beach. His bathing suit was discovered on the sea bed with marks consistent with a white pointer attack.

It followed the savaging of bodyboarder Kyle Burden, 21, at the popular west coast tourist spot of Bunker Bay early last month. Burden was so badly mauled the lower half of his body was torn away. A great white was again believed to be responsible.

Sharks are a common feature of Australian waters, but fatal attacks are rare, an average of just 1.2 shark-related deaths a year, according to official data.

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