Shark Attacks Becoming Too Frequent

By Neville T Farr – 2012

There has been another fatal shark attack in the South West of Western Australia on a beautiful sunny day when we all should be enjoying our beaches, ocean and water sports. The latest diver to be killed by a SHARK happened March 31, 2012, in reasonably shallow water as he and his brother were going down the anchor rope to get some crayfish (lobster). I can only assume the White Pointer came from underneath the diver to grab him, this is a common attack mode for the shark.

His brother, who saw the attack, swam down to fight the shark with a knife, but unfortunately he was unable to save his brother. It must have been horrible to see such a thing happen. He had only been diving for a short period of time but he didn’t panic which would have been understandable if he had. I would like to offer the family my deepest sympathy at their time of grief.

There have been four fatal shark attacks in the last seven months here in WA, and a total of 12 since 1993. They were not only killed by White Pointers but other sharks as well. Another shark to be wary of is the Tiger shark which we have a lot of in our northern waters, our rivers have Bull sharks which like the dark waters the rivers have to offer.

Several people attacked in recent times, have survived to tell of their ordeal, a young female surfer lost her arm but has returned to the surfing arena and doing well in her chosen sport, a young snorkelling tour operator was bitten on the left buttock but was let go when another person snorkelling nearby came to her rescue, the list could go on for near miss encounters with our most feared predator the SHARK. We often see photos of surf boards with chunks taken out of them where a shark has tried to get a free lunch. I have seen television coverage of sharks being in the surf during surfing carnivals. We know they are out there so take care when surfing, snorkelling, diving or just swimming, remember the most common time for attacks are early morning or a sunset this is the prime feeding time for sharks.

There has been an increase of shark attacks in Australia over recent years, WHY? This question has been asked by many Australians. There are no quick answers, many people blame over fishing, making the source of food for sharks, scarce.

Secondly you could blame the banning of slaughtering of Whales. The Albany Whaling Station (southwest of Western Australia) closed in 1978. Up to that time the sharks were attracted to the spillage from the slaughter of the Whales. Since that whaling industry closed, there has been an increase of Whales which has seen a new tourist industry emerge (of whale watching boat cruises) as the whales migrate north to breed before winter starts, and then sail south with their baby in the warmer months. But with this wonderful migration come the SHARKS!

The White Pointer can travel thousands of kilometres searching for food. There is evidence of a Shark being tagged with a monitor, travelling from South Africa across to West Australia, up the west coast to Indonesia and returning back to South Africa. They are coming to West Australia more frequently now than ever before. Once they have found a food source, they will return every year. So chances are these predators have been here before and are hungry. Humans are not the staple diet of sharks, so why are we being attacked. One theory is – surfers or divers with a black wet suit may look like a seal (food) to the shark. So they attack for this reason. As it has not been proven, this is only a theory. I don’t claim to be an expert on the matter, what are your theories?

I have been a diver for more than fifteen years which I enjoy immensely. The feeling of weightlessness you get when you are underwater is fantastic. Once you start you don’t want to stop. When I started diving I had a fear of seeing a shark and what would I do if I did come across one on a dive, it must be a question every diver asks himself at some point when in the ocean.

I saw my first shark after I had logged 100 dives. It happened when I was on holiday in Penang, we booked a dive off a nearby Island and I was with 10 divers all enjoying ourselves when a 2-3 meter Black Tip Reef shark came in from the side of us, looked around at the group, and swam away. The strange thing was, I didn’t experience any fear but was amazed how sleek and beautiful the shark was. So when you see your first shark, don’t panic. In the state of panic you forget the basic rules of diving – stay calm and watch what the shark is doing.

Many sharks in the ocean are not aggressive and only feed on fish; they are attracted to where you are by the vibrations of what you are doing in their world. If you are catching fish with a spear gun for example, when you spear the fish, it vibrates until it dies and blood from the fish is released into the water, sharks can smell blood from a long way away and are attracted to these elements as this is how they get to their food source.

SHARK Shields have been devised to protect divers from sharks. They are attached to your leg and send out a shock wave which the sharks don’t like and theoretically sends them away. They protect the diver with a barrier of up to four meters. So if your buddy is close to you he should be protected as well.

Although these devises work effectively, you need to follow the safety guidelines. When diving one time, a friend of mine, went over the side of the boat as usual, he had his Shark Shield on his leg and switched on. As he hit the water, the two meter lead which comes from the shield, flicked back and touched his shoulder, giving him a very strong shock and dislocating his shoulder.

He was helped back onto the boat and taken to hospital where he spent several days recovering. He was back diving again later that month!

You can’t stop a diver doing what a diver loves to do. As technology advances, I look forward to the day when a shark repelling dive watch is developed.

Neville Farr: [] has recently entered the world of watches and is astonished at the huge array of modern wrist watches available. Take a look, you are sure to be impressed, AND watches make a great gift for all occasions.

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