Monday, October 24, 2011

Update: American, 32, Killed Near Perth by Great White

As a follow-up to my Saturday (October 22) posting on the death of American diver Thomas Wainwright, 32, who was attacked by great white shark (also known as a white pointer in Australia) off Australia's southwest coast has raised the question of whether the shark that killed Wainwright may also have been responsible for two other shark attacks in a period of two months. Nevertheless, marine biologists are very confident that three sharks are more likely responsible.

Wainwright was attacked while diving solo off a boat near Rottnest Island, a few miles from the city of Perth in Western Australia state. Friends of his who were with him on their boat at the time of the attack estimated the length of the shark to be ten feet (three meters).

COMMENT: Raised in Florida, Wainwright was more comforrtable in water than on land; he was barely 18 when he became among the youngest to get his captain's license. He went on to run charter boat business. Wainwright also helped with the oil spill cleanup and even appeared in a BP video, after an oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico last year. Then, six months ago, he moved to Australia where he was working as a project manager with a marine company.

The Western Australia state government set tuna-baited hooks off Rottnest on Sunday, the first time authorities have used an emergency legal exemption from the state protection of great whites as an endangered species in the interests of protecting the public. Barbara Weuringer, a University of Western Australia marine zoologist and shark researcher, told AP that she urged against a shark hunt, saying there was no way of telling which shark was the killer without killing it and opening its stomach.

A great white of the same size that attacked Wainwright is believed to have killed a 64-year-old Australian swimmer off Perth city's premier Cottesloe Beach on October 10. The beach is 11 miles (18 kilometers) east of Rottnest Island. The victim's remains were never found, but his shredded swimming trunks suggested the size and type of shark that took him. Both attacks followed the September 4 death of a bodyboarder attacked by a shark described as 15 feet (4.5 meters) long at a beach south of Perth.

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