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Australia Broome shark attack almost impossible to predict, says leading shark expert

00:05  24 november  2020
00:05  24 november  2020 Source:   abc.net.au

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Police said they shot at the shark after seeing it linger along the shoreline for almost a half-hour after the attack . By Nina Golgowski. Western Australia's third fatal shark attack this year has been described as "the definition of random" as Broome 's Cable Beach reopened to the public.

Key points An onlooker provided first aid to Broome shark attack victim Charles Cernobori Mr Cernobori had been swimming at Cable Beach in Broome when he was bitten by a large shark Mr Ridley said the shark stayed in the shallows at the site of the attack for up to an hour.

a sign on a beach: A 'beach closed' sign in Broome. (ABC News: Tyne Logan) © Provided by ABC NEWS A 'beach closed' sign in Broome. (ABC News: Tyne Logan)

The first fatal shark attack in Broome in almost 30 years has prompted some to raise concerns that an attack was inevitable after repeated sightings of large sharks close to shore.

Broome man Charles Cernobori was fatally bitten in shallow water off Cable Beach just before 9am on Sunday.

Scenic and charter flight business owner Sadie Prendergast said a large shark was spotted close to Cable Beach from her aircraft three times in recent weeks.

"I first heard the news on the Broome [Facebook] noticeboard and I just thought, 'I knew it. We just knew something like this would happen,'" Ms Prendergast said.

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Police said they later shot at the shark , which lingered close to the shore, for almost half an hour after the attack . The introduction of shark nets at popular beaches in the 1930s led to a significant fall in fatal Broome , near where the latest shark attack took place, is about 1,000 miles north of Western

A man has been killed in a shark attack on the north-west coast of Western Australia, the WA Police said the man was recovered from the water and treated by local police officers before St Associated Press reported that officers shot at the shark , which "lingered close to the shore, for almost half an

"We'd seen a big shark in the water quite a few times and the pilot had called it in to the air traffic control tower, saying what he'd seen, and the tower was going to contact the lifeguards."

Records not kept

Air Services Australia, which operates the Broome airport control tower, said it does not keep records of calls not relating to aviation, but it does routinely pass-on shark sighting reports to Cable Beach Lifesavers and Parks and Wildlife.

Surf Life Saving Western Australia (SLSWA) declined to say whether it received reports of a large shark near Cable Beach in recent weeks, or whether any action was taken.

But it did confirm that the Cable Beach patrolled swimming area was closed three times this year, twice in July and once in September, due to sightings of unidentified sharks in the two to three-metre size range.

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A man has been killed in a shark attack on the north-west coast of Western Australia. WA Police said the man was recovered from the water and treated by local police officers before St John "The species of the shark was not immediately confirmed, but locals told reporters it may have been a tiger

A man died Sunday after being attacked by a shark in Western Australia state, the eighth fatality in the country this year. Police said later that they shot at the shark , which lingered close to the shore, for almost half an hour after the attack . The species of the shark was not immediately confirmed, but

Ms Prendergast was at the beach one of the times when it was closed due to a shark sighting.

"We looked out across the water and quite close to shore we could see a really huge fin, like it was really massive, I actually thought it was a buoy," she said.

"And then as the waves rolled in it was actually silhouetted in the rolling wave and it was absolutely huge, and it was pretty chilling."

In an email response to questions from the ABC, SLSWA said shark sightings should be reported to Water Police who staff phones at all hours.

Sightings do not indicate risk

Mark Meekin is one of Western Australia's leading shark experts and is a senior research scientist with Australian Institute of Marine Science, and has lived in north western Australia and studied tiger and bull sharks.

He said, while it might seem reasonable to connect recent sightings and the fatal attack, it was actually impossible to draw a link.

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"Shark attacks happen so infrequently that we have huge amount of difficulty in actually correlating them with anything, and actually working out what the pattern is," Dr Meekin said.

"It's not that sharks are there some of the time, they are there all of the time."

He said that because sharks could travel many kilometres every day, a sighting did not tell us much about the presence of sharks over time.

"Sharks are super mobile, they're not tied to one spot," he said.

"Attacks are so rare it's like being struck by lightning, it is very hard to predict where and when it may happen."

Schools of fish may increase risks

But Dr Meekin said despite the difficulties in predicting why or when sharks might attack, it was probably a good idea to avoid swimming where large schools of fish may attract feeding sharks.

"I think there were some very interesting things that were happening at Cable Beach at the time, and one of those were the big bait schools that were apparently in shallow water," he said.

"A lot of fish activity, a lot of hunting behaviour going on, other small fishes, and that's the sort of thing that can get sharks pretty interested."

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It is also marine turtle nesting season along Cable Beach and tiger sharks target these amphibious reptiles at this time of year.

But Dr Meekin said that feeding on turtles was unlikely to increase the risk of sharks accidentally attacking humans.

"It's actually a very slow process where the tiger shark pins the turtle against the surface of the water," Dr Meekin said.

"It's not something like you get with white sharks down south where they rush in and take a great big bite out of something."

Troy Ridley, who attempted to rescue Broome victim Mr Cernobori, said he noticed large schools of fish close to shore immediately before the attack.

"The one thing I noticed yesterday was that there was just so much bait around," he said.

Ms Prendergast also said there were a lot of fish close to shore at Cable Beach.

"There was a whopping bait ball of fish really close to shore, there were a lot of birds around, and you could see all the ripples, and all the splashes of the bait-ball," she said.

Risks will be assessed

Fisheries Minister Peter Tinley flew into Broome yesterday to support the town and speak to local authorities.

He said Fisheries officers would be examining issues, including shark sightings and the presence of large schools of fish.

"We'll be looking at all of those sort of factors and see if we can't make a more localised response in the north, where we typically don't see a lot of interactions between humans and sharks," Mr Tinley said.

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"The SharkSmart App has been active for some time and it's the principle instrument through which reports are made."

Having seen a large shark close to Cable Beach three times in recent weeks, Ms Prendergast said the sightings from her aircraft were unusual.

"There's the odd little reef shark around that wouldn't be able to kill anyone … that's really common," she said

"But we've been here 17 years and that's the first time I've seen anything like that big shark, it's very unusual and that's why we were mindful of reporting it each time we saw it."


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