Friday, September 30, 2005

Great white shark attack survivor tells his story

Kingscote resident Josh Berris had a 26th birthday he will never forget last Sunday when he fought off a massive Great White Shark at an isolated surf location near Cape du Couedic on the Island's west coast.

Trying out his brand new wetsuit, a birthday present, and surfing with five other locals, Josh was attacked by the five metre shark shortly before midday at a spot known as 'Rockies', about three kilometres northeast of Admiral's Arch.

"It's all a bit of blur at the moment but I remember the shark grabbing my leg and circling around a couple of times to go me again" Josh told The Islander at the scene on Sunday afternoon.
"I accidentally put my hand in its mouth as I was trying to push away from it, then my surfboard ended up in its jaws," he explained.

"It was dragging me through the water, but I managed to reach down and undo my leg rope and then it was gone."

Josh received lacerations to both his legs and one hand in the attack and has heaped praise on nearby board-rider Lee Carter who risked his own life to drag Josh to safety.

"Special thanks go to Lee for having the guts to fight his instincts and fears and not only stay in the water, but come back out to me and swim me to shore, saving my life," Josh says in a thank you advert in this week's edition.

Close friend Shane Harris, who has been coming to ‘Rockies' for eleven year, was about 50 metres closer to shore when the attack occurred and remembers hearing Josh yelling out "shark".
"I turned around and saw this huge fin behind Josh ... the shark must have been between 14 and 18 feet long, he looked so small in front of it," he said.

"After it let go of his legs it had his leggie (leg rope) in its mouth and was dragging him feet first through the water, but he was able to undo the strap."

"But then it circled around and had another go at him and that's when he cut his hand on its teeth.
"Lee managed to get to him and grab him by the wetsuit and they were washed into the rocks by a wave and we helped them both out of the water.

"We tried to calm him down as best we could and wrapped the wounds with towels and tied leg ropes and shirts around his legs to stop the bleeding, while Nathan and Lewis Dowie ran up to the emergency phone at the cottages to get help.

Shane said he had never seen a shark while surfing at Cape du Couedic, his favourite spot, but knows of other people who have.

"You always think about it when you paddle out here, but after five good waves it goes to the back of your mind.

"Well, that's the end of surfing down here, I'll never get in the water at ‘Coudie' ever again.
‘Rockies' and nearby ‘Spooks' are located adjacent to a large colony of New Zealand fur seals and often surfers are forced to dodge them as they catch the waves.

"Within 10 metres of hitting the water you'll see 50 seals at ‘Rockies' and sometimes we have to force them off the jump-off rock," Damian Berden, a good friend of Josh's who rushed to the scene on Sunday, said.

His parents, Steve and Mel Berris, were very relieved to learn their son's injuries were not life-threatening, travelled to Adelaide on Sunday night to be by Josh's side.

"When Josh said he was going surfing at Cape du Couedic on Sunday we had three different conversations about sharks down there, but never imagined he would be attacked," Mel said
"We are just glad that he came out of it OK and hope it serves as a deterrent to other surfers who might be thinking about going there," she added.

Josh was airlifted by the Adelaide Bank rescue helicopter to the Flinders Medical Centre where he received treatment for the lacerations.

Lunchtime in sharks world

Beware Tommy, the sharks are salivating.

And whether he knows it or not on this blessed Thursday, the sharks are proposing that he should be their main course.

Back in April, Tommy Turnquest was in the news. The news then was that his days as leader of the Free National Movement were being numbered.

Even then, the sharks were salivating.

This is how one story reported the matter:

"Amid reports that he is facing fierce opposition from within his own party, Free National Movement Leader Tommy Turnquest called a press conference on Tuesday to reassure FNM’s that all is well in the party.

"Mr. Turnquest told reporters that he is confident that he has the full support of former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham and that as far as he is aware Mr. Ingraham, despite reports, is not interested in returning as leader of the party.

"We in the FNM will not allow our political opponents to capitalize on make-believe issues in our party," said Mr. Turnquest, who added that he is not troubled by opposition within or outside his party.

"They want desperately to take the focus off their incompetence, ineffectiveness and inefficiency. We must continue to reveal their total ineptitude as a government. The old, pompous, all-for-me nature of the PLP is back and we must resolve to rid our country of this rudderless, incompetent and unfocused government. This is the focus of the FNM – nothing more, nothing less."

"The FNM leader called the press conference to respond to a Bahama Journal article published on Monday under the headline "FNM’s Want Tommy Out."

"That story revealed that an advisory council of the party headed by former Deputy Prime Minister Frank Watson has advised Mr. Turnquest that there are many FNM’s who want him out and Mr. Ingraham back in as leader."

Today –some months later- barring some miracle, Mr. Turnquest is set to become history.
This is all so sad for those people who know little or nothing about sharks. The truth in the matter is that sharks do what they do, because that is how they have been designed.

And so, brothers and sisters, a shark is a shark is a shark. And for sure sharks do get hungry. Barring some miracle, Mr. Turnquest is set to become history. He will be –as it were- lunch to some land-based sharks. That they once praised him as their leader is strangely irrelevant to the matter at hand; namely lunch at lunchtime in Bahama Land.

To be quite honest with you, up until quite recently I was one of those profoundly ignorant Bahamians. And to be quite honest, the only sharks I would be able to identify would be the hammerhead and the Great White.

Some of the hammer-heads double as members of parliament in The Commonwealth of the Bahamas. And the Great White is a movie star.

Up until recently, that’s as much as I would confess knowing about sharks. But now this thing arises with Tommy Turnquest; this thing about who is going to lead the Free National Movement to victory whenever the next general elections are called.

The hearsay is that Hubert Alexander Ingraham is the one man who can and will pull this one off. And thus the trumpeted fan-fare and clarion call for Tommy to leave. And the hosannas for Mr. Ingraham to arrive.

Even now I can hear you saying to yourself, "Hold on. Hold on. Hold on, Mr. Bethel, what does this blather about Ingraham and Tommy have to do with what you know or do not know about sharks?"
Let me explain.

The matter involving these two fine Bahamians goes back quite some time. My suspicion is that the matter involving Turnquest the junior has a lot to do with the relationship between Turquest the senior and Mr. Hubert Alexander Ingraham.

And in my wonderful world of surmise and conjecture, my surmise is that the two senior men made a deal that helped decide the fate of the Free National Movement when its Leader, Sir Cecil Vincent Wallace-Whitfield died at the age of 60 in 1990.

Whatever the details of the surmised deal, my conjecture is that Mr. Ingraham was a man to his word; thus the leadership of the Free National Movement was ‘won’ by Tommy The Junior.
As fate would have it, Tommy’s triumph was somewhat akin to what happened at the real Mount Moriah when God Almighty saw to it that a real goat was to be readied for the sacrifice.

The Free National Movement was routed in the ensuing elections. Tommy Turnquest –erstwhile Cabinet Minister and Member of Parliament for the other Mount Moriah- became a 21st. century seatless wonder.

And for whatever wonderful reason, he remained as leader of The Free National Movement.
Even now I can hear ‘your but, buts’ and saying to yourself, " But Hold on. Hold on. But hold on, Mr. Bethel, what does this blather about Ingraham and Tommy have to do with what you know or do not know about sharks?"

Give me a minute. I am trying to explain. But since I am obviously being diverted with all of these references to politicians like Turnquest the Senior and Turnquest the Junior and Hubert Alexander Ingraham, I would recommend that you take note of what is said by people who know what they are talking about when they talk about sharks.

What follows is some of what they say about sharks:
"Out of all the species walking, flying, slithering or swimming, there aren't many who have been around as long, survived as well, or come in so many shapes and kinds as the shark. The earliest evidences of sharks are isolated spines, teeth and scales that appeared about 430 million years ago in the Silurian Period, known as the "Age of Fishes".

"Sharks have a sleek, streamlined design which helps them swim without using up a lot of energy. They certainly need to conserve their energy because they never really sleep and most of them never stop swimming.

"Some sharks are fierce predators, and would be happy to eat you if they encountered you. Almost any shark six feet or longer is a potential danger, but three species have been identified repeatedly in attacks: the Great White Shark, the Tiger Shark and the Bull Shark…

"They spend early portions of their lives in nursery grounds. Some of the advantages sharks have over people are that they keep growing new teeth, they don't have breakable bones, and they are not prone to get cancer. Sometimes sharks are referred to as swimming computers because of the six senses which they possess: vision, hearing, vibration, smell, taste and electro-perception."
So there! I am trying to suggest that there is a kind of family resemblance between certain kinds of politicians and certain kinds of sharks.

You can therefore compare and contrast what you know about the politicians who come your way and whatever you can learn about those critters from the deep.

Suffice it to say that what makes it or breaks it for a politician in The Bahamas is his sense of timing and his capacity to fool enough of the people enough of the time.

From all accounts, Hubert Alexander Ingraham has an uncanny sense of timing. His record demonstrates that he knows when just when to arrive; just when to leave and just when he should be asked to return.

If he were to ever take up residence amidst the sharks, he would be their undisputed king. Tommy Turnquest would of all people know by now that Mr. Ingraham is a man who will keep his word. He did.

Bottom line: It’s lunchtime in Bahama Land. And the sharks scent blood. And for sure, sharks must do what sharks must do.

And for sure, sharks must do what sharks must do.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Great white shark pup, in popular swimming area for kids

The 2m-long shark, dubbed Jaws Junior, was caught in shallow calm waters in a commercial fishing net 500m off the lake's Canton Beach, a popular swimming spot for children.

Unlike its close relatives, great white sharks give birth to fully-formed pups – complete with razor sharp teeth – of up to 1.5m. They begin feeding immediately after birth.

Local estuary commercial fishermen Mark Sales and Dave Hauraki found the shark dead in the nets they had set for bream on August 26.

The capture ends a long-running local debate over the existence of sharks in the lake system, once thought impenetrable to large marine creatures because its entrance to the sea is so shallow.
"I've seen sharks but nothing like this. It was small and young, but big enough to take a limb off or swallow a head whole," Mr Sales told a local newspaper.

But the pair was reluctant to tell their story yesterday, as they are facing hefty fines over the accidental catch of a protected species. Any great white caught must be reported to the State Government.

Canton Beach is on the eastern side of Tuggerah Lake only minutes from The Entrance, and is a haven for wading prawn fishermen. It is also a perfect swimming environment for children with families flocking to the region during summer.

Sydney-based shark expert Ian Gordon said the juvenile great white might have followed mullet into the lake.

Mr Gordon, dubbed the Shark Whisperer, said it was highly unusual for a white shark to enter a lake and it would have had to "thread the needle" of the shallow lake entrance.

Des Dunn, the division commander of the Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol at Wallarah Bay said: "I've never seen a shark in the lake myself. For a while now people have been adamant they've seen one in the lake, but people brush it off. Now the myth has become reality."

Great white shark mission...incomplete

For most of a year, Greg Skomal has been thinking and talking about a girl he met last September.
A great white shark circles in a lagoon on Naushon Island off Woods Hole on Sept. 24, 2004. The 14-foot, 1,700-pound fish stayed two weeks before a team of biologists and commercial fishermen drove the fish from the lagoon.

He refers to her as ''the white shark'' or ''the Naushon shark.''

You may remember her as Gretel, the 14-foot, 1,700-pound great white that swam into a shallow lagoon off Woods Hole last Sept. 21 and stayed for two weeks, apparently trapped.

A local fisherman discovered the fish at the lagoon, a popular Naushon Island swimming hole. Skomal, a shark biologist with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, planted a data-retrieval tag in the shark's dorsal fin two days later, hoping it would eventually reveal details of the fish's lifestyle in the open sea. Nobody had ever put such a data tag on a great white in the Northeastern Atlantic.

But it was two full weeks before a team of biologists and commercial fishermen could drive the fish from the lagoon. The shark made no obvious effort to depart on its own. And the day she left - driven through a series of strategically placed nets by powerful water hoses - the data tag popped off, dashing Skomal's hopes for a scientific coup.

''It's really a kick in the stomach for a lot of people,'' he told the Times that day.

Next to nothing is known about the Atlantic Ocean habits of the great white shark, the sea's most fearsome predator. More is known about the species in the Pacific, where an abundance of specimens feed on seals off the Northern California coast.

Skomal had hoped the tag would reveal the depths at which the fish spent most of its time, the extent of its travels, and the routes it followed, for example.

In the year since the Naushon shark returned to sea, on Oct. 4, tracked by a news helicopter, Skomal has given about 50 public presentations about the fish. Unable to advance the scientific understanding of the great white because of the loss of the data tag, he has at least settled on the details of the natural phenomenon that drew worldwide attention to Woods Hole.

By comparing first-hand observations with video footage and numerous photographs, Skomal determined the shark to be 14 feet in total length and to weigh 1,726 pounds. Growth charts indicate the fish would have been between 10 and 14 years old at the time.

And by settling on the shark's size and age, he thinks he has debunked a common belief about its purpose for entering the lagoon and reluctance to leave, namely, that she was pregnant. The Naushon shark probably hadn't reached sexual maturity yet, Skomal said. This typically coincides with a minimum ''fork length'' - nose to nook of the tail fins - of 16 feet.
''It discounts that theory that she's in there to give birth,'' he said.

Whereabouts unknown

The battle to drive the fish from the long and narrow lagoon between Naushon and a smaller neighboring island was epic. State wildlife officials were determined to evacuate it alive and unharmed. They speculated it entered the shallow lagoon - its maximum depth is 20 feet - on a storm tide and became trapped when the tide receded. So they hoped it would leave on the next high tide. It didn't.

Rescuers tried luring it out with bait, including a whole seal carcass tethered to a moving boat, but the typically voracious shark never bit. They muddied the water with lime, electrified it, churned it into a lather, but nothing seemed to compel the shark seaward.

Eventually the team set up a maze of nets that guided the shark most of the way to Martha's Vineyard Sound. They finally drove it away with high-pressure water hoses.

Had this failed, there were only two options left on the table, Skomal said last week: dragging it out with tailor-made tail lasso, and drugging it.

Skomal was opposed to the last option. ''I have sedated sharks before,'' he said. ''And it's killed them.''

The state never considered killing the shark.

As for Gretel's current whereabouts and for whether she'll ever come back, nobody knows.

Skomal hasn't laid eyes on a great white in Cape Cod waters since she left, he said. Which isn't to say they're not there, somewhere.

In July he visited Chatham's Monomoy Island to observe a gray seal with a deep, crescent gouge in its side. The teeth marks were characteristic of those of a great white. Just a month earlier, biologists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration photographed a large great white swimming near the carcass of a minke whale floating 20 miles southeast of Martha's Vineyard. Undoubtedly, Skomal said, ''There is evidence of great white shark predation.''
On the hunt

Still smarting from the disappointment of the lost data tag, Skomal is actively looking for the great whites.

With a $16,000 grant from the Massachusetts Environmental Trust, he has undertaken to plant a tag on another great white. To assist in his quest, he's hired two Chatham commercial fishermen to be his scouts.

''We have a strong interest in pursuing what we started with the white shark,'' Skomal said. ''Now I just need to find the animals.''

Chatham is a good place to look because of the large and growing seal population of Monomoy Island. Once great whites reach a certain size, about 1,000 pounds, they give up their fish diet and start hunting for seals and whale carcasses. It stands to reason that the sharks might follow the seals.

''That's kind of the take-home message,'' Skomal said.

This is not to say the local population of great whites will itself boom. The great white sits at the top of its food chain, and apex predators are necessarily scarce. There's only so much room at the top. But the whites already living but generally unseen might appear more often, Skomal said.

This does not seem to be the case so far. Indeed, he said, the incidence of great whites, which are known to have attacked humans in Massachusetts just three times, remains so small, that he was shocked to learn of a scientist who claimed their numbers in the northeast were declining.
''It's like saying the number of Big Foots in the Northeast is declining,'' he said.

Surfer escapes from a great white shark attack

A KINGSCOTE man has fought off a 5m Great White shark with his bare hands - and told of his lucky escape - after an attack off Kangaroo Island yesterday.Joshua Berris, 26, was surfing 20m off shore at Cape de Couedic, on the southwest coast of the island, when a shark circled him and bit at both his legs about noon.

He told rescuers he had then punched the shark in the head and put one of his hands in its mouth to free himself from its jaws.

Another surfer went to the rescue and helped the injured man to shore, before help was called and a rescue helicopter from Adelaide flew to the scene.

Mr Berris, who was supposed to be celebrating his birthday, later could not believe he was able to speak about his amazing tale of survival.

As he was being wheeled from the helicopter after touching down at the Flinders Medical Centre, he said he was "very lucky to be alive".

"It wasn't the best birthday present," he said.

He said everyone involved in saving him "did a great job".

Mr Berris suffered lacerations to both legs and one of his hands.

Last night, he was in a stable condition and doctors expect him to make a full recovery.

Paramedic Dean George, who helped rescue Mr Berris, said there had been about 30-40 seals in the area.

"Josh was wearing a black wetsuit and, with so many seals around, it was easy to see that a shark could have mistaken him for a seal," Mr George said.

"The shark was dragging him from his surfboard and he had to pull his leg rope off to get away. "He said it was a 14-foot to 16-foot white pointer.

"He was extremely brave, and I think the guy who went out to help him really saved Josh's life, and he is a very lucky man."

Mr Berris's father, Steve Berris, said that "all we are thinking about is how lucky he is to be alive".
"We've only got sketchy details. We only know that's he's safe and he's just so lucky," he said.
Last night, witnesses told how two of Mr Berris's friends had scaled a cliff and run more than a kilometre to summon help.

Steve McKee and wife Cindy, who were on their honeymoon staying at guest cottages near Admiral's Arch, saw the surfers head for the sea earlier in the day.

"We saw them all heading down with their surfboards on the car and we're just thinking 'where are they going?' There's nothing there but shipwrecks, high seas and cliffs," Mr McKee said.

An hour later, he and his wife returned from a drive to find and comfort one of the surfers, Lewis Downie, 15, who had climbed the cliff and run more than a kilometre with brother Nathan, 17, to the nearest phone at the cottages.

"He was so calm. I don't really think it had hit him. He just sat with us and we talked to him," Mr McKee said. "He was saying they were all down there and he just heard someone shout 'shark'.
"He said he was a fair distance away, but could easily see the shark's head. He was amazing considering a Great White had just been so close to him."

The two friends had run to the cottages after the group had used their towels to stem the bleeding from cuts to Mr Berris's lower leg.

"We were talking about how much sharks had been in the news lately and he was a bit frustrated that they'd even gone surfing after seeing seals and seal pups in the area . . . he just said 'perhaps that wasn't the smartest thing to do'," Mr McKee said.

The spot is known for seals. Some of the men had been surfing in the spot before, although it is not believed they were regulars.

Local long-time surfer Kym Buttery, 52, said the risks involved in surfing so close to seals were not worth taking.

"That is a scary surf area. I wouldn't surf it and I have surfed in a lot of scary places," he said.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Shark patrols have increased following shark attacks

TWO fatal shark attacks within nine months have prompted South Australia to boost shark watches along Adelaide beaches this summer with more air patrols.Emergency Services Minister Carmel Zollo said today a rescue helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft would conduct patrols.
The helicopter will run from noon to 7pm (CST) on weekends and public holidays from November this year to March next year.

It will patrol the stretch of water from North Haven, in Adelaide's northern suburbs, to Goolwa, about 100km south of the city.

A fixed-wing aircraft also will patrol during the school holiday period from December 12 to January 30.

Ms Zollo said enhancing safety on Adelaide's beaches was a top priority.

"Adelaide's beaches are a major focus for summer holiday makers, especially during school holidays and the government understands that local and visiting families want to feel as safe as possible when they go to the beach," the minister said.

Marine biologist Jarrod Stehbens, 23, was taken by a shark last month while conducting research off Adelaide's Glenelg beach.

Surfboarder Nick Peterson, 18, was killed in December last year after being attacked by a Great White shark off nearby West Beach.

Earlier this month, surfer Jake Heron, 40, also was attacked by a Great White off South Australia's west coast but survived with wounds to a leg and arm.

Monterey Bay Aquarium unable to get a great white shark

Maybe it's the unusually persistent red tides or the low surf this summer. Whatever the reason, Santa Monica Bay seems to be empty of the juvenile great white sharks that have been seen in the area in past summers.And that absence of great whites has been bad news for the crew from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is stymied in its quest to capture a second live juvenile great white for temporary display and research at the aquarium, some 300 miles north of Malibu.

Aquarium crews plan to give up the shark quest for this year if they don't catch one this week. So far they haven't even seen a fin since mid-June."Fishing is fishing, and sometimes the fish just aren't there," said Aquarium spokesman Ken Peterson. "We don't know what the reason is, but there just doesn't seem to be any sharks in the bay this summer."Last year, television news helicopters repeatedly broadcast images of juvenile great whites lounging in shallow, warm water between Will Rogers and Santa Monica state beaches."This year, for whatever reason, there just haven't been any sharks in the bay," Peterson said.

And no live great white shark has been offered to the aquarium by commercial fishermen other than the one caught in June, which died before after it was transferred to its large holding pen off Escondido Creek near Paradise Cove.That shark, which suffered an eye injury as it was accidentally caught in a fisherman's net and brought ashore, is the only live great white shark to have been brought to the aquarium staff so far this year.

One other shark had also been snagged in local waters, but it died before being brought aboard the fishing boat, Peterson said.Last year, a juvenile great white that was captured alive off Malibu was held for more than six months in a pen at the Monterey Aquarium, the first time a great white was exhibited successfully. Proceeds from the extra admissions to the aquarium funded a $500,000 Stanford University research project into shark behavior, and raised awareness about the endangered species, Peterson said.

The shark pen off Escondido Beach has not been without controversy. The city of Malibu has expressed mild concerns about the temporary four million gallon, floating pen tethered within city limits one mile off the beach."After this summer, we plan to have a town meeting with the aquarium and anyone else who wants to talk about the issue, so nothing will be done behind closed doors," said city Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich in a telephone interview.

Meanwhile, at the aquarium, excitement centers on the arrival of two sea otters and 19 penguins-refugees from the storm-ravaged Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans that will be making Monterey their home.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Shark attacks starts debate

In a life-and-death struggle, Australian surfer Jake Heron punched the great white shark as it bit his arm and thigh, turning the ocean into a bloody cauldron.

Miraculously, Heron, 40, lived to tell the tale.

Very few people survive an attack by a great white, which can grow to 20 feet, weigh 2.5 tonnes, and with enough power in its jaws to lift a car.

Two weeks earlier, marine biologist Jarrod Stehbens, 23, also fought a great white as it pulled him underwater as he tried to climb into a boat. Sadly, Stehbens lost his fight for life.

These two attacks in the past few weeks, both in waters off South Australia state, have sparked an emotional debate in Australia over whether the great white, the ocean's fiercest predator, should be culled.

Displaying his savaged surfboard, bitten in half by the shark, Heron is adamant that Australia should end its protection of the great white and start culling.

"They're top of the food chain and nothing affects it," Heron told reporters after his attack.

"It's time they started controlling the numbers. Controlled culling -- they kill our national emblem, the kangaroo, they kill elephants in Africa," he said.

"The numbers have gone up and there's too many of them," he said, adding that sharks were swimming closer to shore threatening children swimming off beaches.

But the parents of Stehbens, who fought in vain to free his leg from the shark's jaws after being attacked while diving for cuttlefish, reject calls to kill the shark.

"He was a marine biologist, he wouldn't want anything killed," said his father, David Stehbens. "Jarrod was doing exactly what he wanted to do. He loved the sea..."

Australia has a global reputation for sharks, with its cold southern waters the ideal breeding ground for great white pointers. But the chances of an attack are slim, in fact, swimmers are more likely to drown than be bitten by a shark.

By September 2005, there had been 652 shark attacks, 191 of them fatal, in Australian waters in the past 200 years, according to the Australian Shark Attack File at Sydney's Taronga Zoo.
In the past 50 years, 60 people have died after being attacked by a shark, 1.2 fatal attacks a year. This compares with two to three deaths each year from bee stings and hundreds of drownings by beach swimmers and fishermen.


"Shark attacks are very prominent in the media when they occur, but they are rare events," said Barry Bruce, a government marine scientist who has studied great whites since 1987.

Great whites are "hot-spot hunters," which target oceanic biological activity, like big schools of fish, seal colonies and dead whales. The sharks do not intentionally hunt humans.

"We are not seeing a trend of increasing shark attacks against a trend of increasing population," said John West, who runs The Australian Shark Attack File.

The odds of a shark attack are 15-20 million to one, he said.

"Unfortunately, they test to see if you are edible, but they can only use their teeth or nose and in doing so they do a lot of damage to soft, squishy humans," said West.

Humans are not sharks' ideal prey because we are bony and have less flesh than seals or dolphins but unfortunately one exploratory bite by a great white, which has poor eyesight, is enough to kill most humans.

According to reports of attacks, very few great whites return for another bite.

Australia regards the great white as an endangered species and has protected it for the past 10 years. Great whites are also protected by South Africa, Namibia, the Maldives and by the U.S. states of Florida and California.

Scientists say there is no evidence that shark numbers have risen dramatically as a result of protection, as counting is impossible, and sharks have slow reproductive cycles.

Female great whites do not start reproducing until they grow to about five meters (16 feet), which takes about 15 to 20 years, and then only produce five to 10 pups every three years.

"Their reproductive potential is quite low and because of that the time it takes to increase their numbers significantly is a long time, likely to be much more than 10 years," said Bruce.

Scientists say culling would have little impact on attacks and would unbalance the food chain by removing an apex predator.

Those calling for culling also claim that shark tourism and tuna farming has attracted sharks closer to shore and swimmers.

Again, scientists discount such an argument, saying shark tourism occurs well offshore. It involves operators dumping bloody berley or fish bait into the ocean to attract sharks and then lower tourists in cages into the water.

And there are also only a handful of operators in the ocean off the state of South Australia.
"Sometimes they put berley in water and find nothing because sharks are traveling in and out of these areas," Bruce said.

Scientists say that tuna farms, which are found only off southern Australia, are not a big attraction for sharks. The fish are in big enclosures and, unlike seals or swimmers, do not offer sharks an opportunistic feed.


Culling sharks would be very difficult and costly, scientists say, particularly as great whites travel thousands of kilometers (miles) each year along "hunting highways."

Great whites patrol an area that extends from Australia's cold southern waters to its tropical northern waters on both its east and west coasts. Usually they move north during autumn and winter and south in spring and summer.

Sharks tagged by the Australian government's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) have been recaptured up to 1,400 km (870 miles) from the point of tagging.
Scientists say that 24 to 48 hours after an attack the chances are a great white would be hundreds of kilometers away.

Sharks also have erratic movement patterns, with electronic transmitters showing some swimming near the seabed and close to shore by day and near the surface and offshore at night.

Scientists believe that, if there is any increasing risk of shark attack in Australia, it will be caused by people, not sharks, as more leisure time means more people are entering the ocean.

"The more people in the water, and the more diverse their activities, the more chances somebody will be in the path of a hunting shark," said Bruce.

Bird Prey, not a tasty meal!

IT looked like a tasty meal from under the water.But on taking the first bite, this Great White shark soon found out the bird was not a delicious morsel after all - and spat it out.
This picture shows how ferocious a shark can be when it is hungry, even if its prey is not usually on its menu. It was taken by Sydney-based photographer Jacqui Larsen during a dive trip to South Neptune Island off the state's West Coast in July last year.
Ms Larsen watched from on board a charter boat as the 4.2m shark targeted the giant petrel.
She said everyone on board the boat, including the trip's organisers, were stunned by the rare display of behaviour.

The shark rapidly closed in on the unsuspecting bird from about 9m below to snatch it into its jaws.
The shark swam off with it in its mouth for about 100m then spat it out.
"The shark just came out of nowhere," Ms Larsen said.

"It had a taste (of the bird) and decided it wasn't an eel or a fish or whatever she thought it was and spat it out again.

"The sharks are well known to chase these birds around the surface and the birds usually get away but this bird wasn't so lucky."

Just hours earlier the dive group had been swimming in a cage with up to five Great White sharks around them at one time.

"It was phenomenal - not too many people get to see Great Whites do that sort of thing," Ms Larsen said.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Great white possibly to be added to the endangered species

Labour wants to add the great white shark to the list of endangered species, which would protect them against big game fishermen. Conservation Minister Chris Carter, announcing Labour's conservation policy yesterday, said the great white was an endangered species. Canada, the United States, South Africa and Australia protected the great white, but New Zealand was lagging behind and they needed protecting in this country's waters as well.

The great white has been blamed for a string of fatal attacks on people in Australian waters in recent years. But Mr Carter said they were "very endangered" and extending the Wildlife Act's protection to them as a vulnerable species would mean big game fishermen could not hunt them. "I know people are very averse to large sharks that could eat people, but then we protect tigers which could do the same.

"I think every species on earth has an intrinsic value as something that is unique, and it would be a shame to see them become extinct." Mr Carter said great whites were very migratory, had great range and even travelled into tropical waters. In early April a team of international and New Zealand scientists at the Chatham Islands tagged a 4m adult female named Tessa.

She then travelled more than 1000km north - when the team fully expected her to travel south or southwest. Great whites are considered cold-water sharks, so her route towards the tropics was surprising, the Department of Conservation said in July. Mr Carter said the Government also wanted to set up a new network of parks and reserves in the South Island high country.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Environmentalists and people asking for culling of sharks are fighting it off

Australia's eighth shark attack in a year, the mauling of a surfer by a 13-foot Great White, has prompted calls for the predators to be culled, angering environmentalists and tour operators.
Jake Heron's three children looked on as the shark bit the cray fisherman's surfboard in two and pulled him underwater near Port Lincoln, in South Australia state, on Sept. 4. Heron, 40, received 60 stitches to wounds in his arms, thigh and calf. Sharks kill an average of three people a year around Australia.

``It's time they started controlling the number of sharks,'' Heron said in an interview in Port Lincoln. ``We're seeing more and more sharks out at sea and surfing has turned into a deadly lottery.''

The debate is pitting surfers and fishermen against environmentalists because the Great White was last year listed as an endangered species. Tour operators running lucrative dive-with- the-sharks trips from Australia's south coast to northern Queensland are also opposed to culls. Tourism last year contributed 4.2 percent to Australia's economy.

Great Whites are found in colder southern oceans and can grow to 25 feet, according to the Australian Shark Research Institute. Australia ranks behind South Africa for the number of shark-related fatalities, according to National Geographic.

Tour operators, including Andrew Fox, said so-called cage diving, where someone is lowered underwater in a cage to see the sharks, hadn't caused extra attacks. Fox's Rodney Fox Shark Experience operates from Adelaide in South Australia.

Tourist Attraction

``Sharks are a great attraction,'' Fox said in an interview from Port Lincoln. ``We definitely don't make the Great White sharks overcome any natural fear of humans.''

The Australian government in 2004 listed the Great White as an endangered species and it is protected in Australian waters as a vulnerable species. Sharks, sometimes referred to as ``the living fossil,'' have existed in the oceans for some 400 million years.

Fox blames fish offal from tuna operators for increasing the number of Great Whites. Australia exported A$85 million of tuna last year, mainly to Japan, which leads the world in fish consumption, eating an average of 65.6 kilograms of seafood annually.

The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna in November approved the first international ban on shark finning to counter the slaughter of sharks around the world to feed the growing market for shark fin soup in Asia.

Annual Harvest

As many as 100 million sharks may be killed annually for food and sport after being snagged in fishing nets, said R. Aidan Martin, director of ReefQuest Centre for Shark Research in Vancouver. Japan takes the most sharks, averaging 65,000 tons a year, or equal to the tonnage displaced by an average cruise ship.

The price of a bowl of shark fin soup can be as much as $600, said Ralph S. Collier, president of the Shark Research Committee in Canoga Park, California. Shark finning consists of hacking the fin from the fish and then throwing the still living shark back into the water where it will suffocate because it can't swim, he said.

Di Dennis, manager of the Port Lincoln Visitor Center, said sharks were a tourist attraction. Dennis said Great White jaws, teeth and fins were also a lucrative trophy business. As much as A$50,000 was paid for great white jaws in South Africa, according to the federal government.

``Tourists come here and expect to stand on the beach and see the sharks just paddling about in the ocean,'' Dennis said in an interview from Port Lincoln. ``It's quite an industry here, although you have to spend as long as four or five days out at sea looking for them.''


The attack on Heron followed a fatal attack on Aug. 25, when 23-year-old marine biologist Jarrod Stehbens was killed near Adelaide.

The Australian Shark Attack File, part of Sydney's Taronga Zoo, claims 60 people have been killed in shark attacks in Australian waters in the past 50 years, or as many as three per year.

Vic Hislop, a Australian shark hunter for four decades who calls himself ``Shark Man,'' says the actual death toll may be higher than official estimates.

Hislop said there had been four fatalities in Australian waters in the past 14 months. He has been pushing for a national cull for the past 30 years.

``There is no doubt we need a huge national cull, because sharks are a massive blight on marine life,'' Hislop, 58, said in an interview from Hervey Bay. ``Humans are also now right on the menu for these senseless eating machines.''

Hislop, who claims to have killed more than 1,100 sharks runs Vic Hislop's Shark World in Cairns and Hervey Bay. The museum includes Hislop's ``greatest trophy'' -- the carcass of a 22-foot great white shark whose open mouth is 2.4 meters tall.

``Attacks have been increasing about 10 percent a year,'' Hislop said. ``And that's the ones we know about.''

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Australian surfer survives attack from a great white shark

A 40-year-old surfer fought off a Great White shark and survived with only cuts to his arm and thigh.With his two young children watching from the beach, the shark attacked Jake Heron on his surfboard 33ft from shore off South Australia state’s Eyre Peninsula.Heron’s friend Craig Materna, who was on his board nearby, said he heard his friend scream and paddled straight to him.“He was freaking out, yelling for help,” Materna said.

”No one saw the shark come up to him – it knocked him off the board. It pulled him under because the leg rope was attached to him. He kicked and punched the shark.”The Great White bit through Heron’s surfboard, splitting it in two.He was taken to a local hospital and received 20 stitches in one arm and 40 stitches in his thigh.“If the shark had bit him in any other part of his body, it could have been good night,” Materna said. “Not too many people survive a shark attack.”

The attack came just two weeks after a marine biologist was killed by a shark while diving near the state capital Adelaide.Last December, an 18-year-old surfer was killed by a Great White about half-a-mile from the same area.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Alert signaling the possible presence of a great white shark

Beachgoers along a mile-long stretch of La Jolla coastline were cautioned about the possible presence of a great white shark, following an apparent attack on a seal.

The warnings were issued after lifeguards at Children's Pool beach spotted a distressed and bleeding harbor seal with an 18-inch bite mark on its body. The adult seal, which appeared to have a crescent-shaped bite mark, was jumping in and out of the water erratically, Lt. Nick Lerma, a spokesman for the San Diego Lifeguard Service said.

Lifeguards in rescue boats told beachgoers a half-mile north and south of Children's Pool about the injured seal. "We knew there was a good likelihood that people would want to know, and we felt it was our obligation to tell them," Lerma said.

A fire department helicopter was dispatched to check the La Jolla coastline, but no sharks were spotted after a 20-minute search, Lerma said.

No one was ordered out of the water and no beaches were closed.

"Although we couldn't determine for certain that the seal's injuries were from a shark, we know sharks are out there and we know harbor seals are a natural prey item," Lerma said.
The Children's Pool is home to a colony of nearly 200 harbor seals.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Concerns about diving in a cage and chumming to attract great white sharks

IT MAY not be everybody’s idea of fun, but the chance of lingering in a reinforced steel cage in front of a great white shark has thousands of British tourists reaching for their travellers cheques. Their thirst for underwater adventure has also set off a debate worthy of the bloodiest feeding frenzy.

With more shark attacks reported in South Africa this year than for a decade, scientists, marine environmentalists, conservationists and tour operators are locked in fierce argument over accusations that the booming shark-cage-diving industry is to blame.

“We don’t know enough about the risks. Until we do, we should stop it,” Craig Bovim, a marine engineer, said. He wants to see an end to shark-cage diving and particularly “chumming” — placing a noxious mix of blood and gore in the water to lure the predators to the cage.

Mr Bovim, 38, a lifelong surfer who survived a shark attack three years ago, has set up Shark Concern Group, which lobbies for an end to the new craze, already outlawed in Californian waters. He has received support from some of the country’s top sportsmen and scientists, including an eminent surgeon and award-winning Olympic yachtsman.

Mr Bovim also wants to seeks the proper enforcement of a code of conduct that forbids touching of the animal, particularly its highly sensitive snout.

“Baiting of leopards and lions is no longer allowed. We should not do it to sharks. They are magnificent animals as it is,” he told The Times, saying that he feared that the activity was creating a familiarity between two species historically deeply suspicious of each other — with fatal results.
Others, fearing a public backlash against one of nature’s most frightening predators, say that the great white is deeply misunderstood and a victim of irrational human fears.

“I’m dead certain shark tourism and cage-watching has had no effect on a shark’s behaviour towards humans,” Wilfred Chivell, a leading marine environmentalist, said. He runs whale and shark-watching businesses out of Gansbaai, the country’s undisputed shark-watching capital.
He said: “If the great white wanted to feed off humans, then there would be carnage in our waters. Compare the figures on water usage — how many people in the water — to the number of attacks. The accusations just do not measure up. They just feed the human primeval fear of sharks as an apex predator.”

The controversial debate has been given a further twist by ITV’s decision to film its latest television reality show in Shark Alley, a 60-mile stretch off Gansbaai, south of Cape Town.

Celebrity Shark Bait, which is presented by Ruby Wax and has just finished filming, involves the actor Richard Grant and the former athlete Colin Jackson being lowered in a cage to come face to face with a great white.

Environmentalists who have seen the early footage accuse ITV of frequently baiting the sharks and exploiting the animals for the sake of the ratings.

The truth about attacks is as murky as the cold Atlantic waters of Shark Alley. A few facts are indisputable. As shark-cage diving has increased, so has the number of reported incidents. After almost two decades with virtually no shark attacks, five — two fatal — have been reported in South Africa this year. Last year there were at least two serious attacks and several minor ones.

Meanwhile, in Australia, where shark caging is also popular, a teenager was bitten in two as he lay on a surfboard off Adelaide last December; in the same week a spear fisherman lost his life on the Great Barrier Reef in a shark attack.

Thousands of tourists, many British, now take part in shark-cage diving, an activity almost unknown as recently as five years ago. Chumming attracts the shark to the boat, where it is then enticed with the liver of a dead fish. Pursuing such delicacies, the shark swims past the cage so the tourists can take their pictures.

Opponents say that the shark often catches the bait, something it is never meant to do. In addition, the more unscrupulous operators touch the shark on its highly sensitive nose, leading it to open its mouth and display its terrifying array of teeth. Mr Bovim said: “This is all done against the code of conduct and for the sake of better pictures. We don’t know what effect it is having.”

Cage-diving defenders counter that the sharks in Western Cape waters are transient and not exposed to chumming and baiting frequently enough to condition behaviour patterns.
No one, however, is prepared to step outside the cage.


August 24, 2005 Marine biologist, 23, killed by a shark off Glenelg Beach, near Adelaide, Australia
March 2005 Geoffrey Brazier, 26, a charter-boat skipper, killed while snorkelling off the Abrolhos Islands, north of Perth

December 2004 Mark Thompson, 38, spear fisherman, killed near Cairns, Australia

December 2004 Nick Petersen, 18, a surfer, killed by two sharks off Adelaide

November 2004 Tyna Webb, 77, killed when swimming near Fish Hoek, South Africa

August 2004 Diver, 50, killed near San Francisco