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Shark Attacks Prompt Emergency Summit in Australia


This Nov. 7, 2018, image made from video shows the beach where a shark attack occurred in Ballina, Australia.

The latest victim of a fatal shark attack in Australia was 33-year old Daniel Christidis. He was bitten by a shark November 5 at Cid Harbour, a large and popular anchorage in the Whitsunday Islands off eastern Australia. The victim was killed on the first day of a yachting vacation with friends. In September, a middle-aged woman and a school girl were attacked separately by sharks in the same area. 12-year-old Hannah Papps lost part of her leg.

Queensland government ministers have met with local tourism operators and marine experts, as well as members of the local council to look at ways to reduce the risk of a shark attack. Scientists have urged the authorities not to sanction a cull, believing that other measures are more effective. In Queensland only sharks identified as posing a threat to swimmers and surfers are killed.

Professor Colin Simpfendorfer is the director of the Center for Sustainable Tropical Fisheries and Aquaculture at James Cook University. He says shark control strategies vary across the country.

“Here in Queensland we have got the very, sort of, long term, well-established shark control program which removes large, dangerous sharks," he said. " (In) other parts of the country we are seeing non-lethal approaches, you know, sort of exclusion areas where things are netted, drones doing surveillance, you know, helicopters doing surveillance, people being educated, dangerous sharks being tagged so that we can track their movements and alert people when they are in areas that are close to public swimming beaches - all those sorts of things. The reality is, though, that none of these programs is 100 percent failsafe.”

FILE - A rescue helicopter and other emergency vehicles are seen at the scene of the shark attack in Gracetown, Australia.
FILE - A rescue helicopter and other emergency vehicles are seen at the scene of the shark attack in Gracetown, Australia.

Earlier this week a surfer fought off a shark with his board, and has been treated in hospital to a deep cut on his leg.

In response to a series of shark attacks, the government in Western Australia under it’s ‘catch and kill’ policy killed more than 170 sharks in 2014, including a 4.5 meter great white. On the other side of the country, authorities in New South Wales state favor non-lethal shark detection methods and early warning systems for beach users. Drones fitted with artificial intelligence software can now identity the shape of a predator at sea and instantly alert lifeguards on the beach.

Official figures show that so far in 2018 there have been 18 shark attacks in Australian waters, only one of them fatal. Many of Australia’s 25 million people live close to the coast, and given the nation’s love of the beach and water sports, the chances of a shark attack are still rare.

Swimmers are encouraged to avoid the water at dusk and dawn, and not to swim when conditions are murky.

Australia has about 170 types of shark, but only a small number - great white, tiger and bull sharks - are known to attack people.

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