SYDNEY, Aug 29 – A surfer has been savaged by a shark off a remote west Australian beach in the sixth serious incident in the state in less than a year, with witnesses Wednesday telling of water “full of blood”.
The man, reported to be in his 30s, was bitten on the abdomen and suffered severe injuries to his right arm while trying to fend off the shark at far-flung Red Bluff – a popular surf spot about 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) north of Perth.
A fellow surfer dragged the man onto his board and brought him ashore after Tuesday afternoon’s attack, with witnesses recounting gruesome scenes.
“The water was full of blood,” said local woman Rebecca Caldwell.
Surfing instructor Josh Palmateer said the man was lucky to survive the “pretty brutal” attack.
“From what I hear he had to fight it off and it came back and had another go and that’s when it got him on the arm,” Palmateer told News Limited.
The man was wrapped in towels to stem blood loss and driven almost two hours on unpaved roads to a waiting ambulance, according to Caldwell’s husband Jim, the local campground manager.
“We were keeping him talking, that was the main thing, to keep him coherent,” Caldwell told The West Australian newspaper, describing the victim as “tough as nails”.
“It was all about keeping the pressure on, the blood loss was our biggest concern.”
It is the sixth serious attack off Australia’s west coast in less than a year, with a fatality north of Perth last month – the fifth in less than 12 months – renewing debate about whether great whites should remain protected.
Most fatal attacks in the region involve great whites, among the largest shark species in the world and made famous by the horror movie “Jaws”.
There were also calls after the latest attack for the Western Australian state government to consider installing shark nets at its beaches to protect the public.
WA Premier Colin Barnett conceded that shark numbers appeared to have risen but said a new report to the government was “not particularly encouraging” about nets, describing them as “shark traps”.
Barnett said there were “other things being looked at” including an easing on shark fishing restrictions, increased shark patrols and culling of large great whites that lurked close to popular swimming spots.
WA Fisheries spokesman Tony Cappelluti earlier told ABC radio it was “very difficult to speculate” what kind of shark it was in the latest attack, with tiger sharks “fairly prevalent” in the area but great whites also present.
Sharks are common in Australian waters but deadly attacks have previously been rare, with only one of the average 15 incidents a year typically proving fatal.
Experts say the average number of attacks in the country has increased in line with population growth and the popularity of water sports.