Saturday, October 22, 2011

US Citizen, 32, Killed by Shark Near Perth

An American tourist, 32, was killed earlier today (October 22) off Rottnest Island, a popular getaway in the Indian Ocean about 20 kilometers (12 miles) west of the Western Australia state capital of Perth. He was alone at the time of the attack; his name was not released, pending notification of next-of-kin. According to witnesses, the shark was a White Pointer, also known as a Great White, and was at least three meters in length (9.8 feet).

COMMENT: The attack on the American is the third fatal shark attack off the country's west coast in two months. Although rare, there have been a number of shark attacks in recent weeks worldwide. Divers, snorkelers and swimmers are urged to speak with local officials, particularly in Australia, in order to get a sense as to the presence of sharks, dive in a group where possible and select areas where shark nets have been installed.

In New South Wales, Australia, 51 beaches are netted. The nets are generally 150 meters long, six meters wide and "bottom-set" on the seabed in depths of ten meters (http://www.metric-conversions.org/length/meters-to-feet). The nets can be 500 meters from the beach. Nets are lifted every 24 to 48 hours for servicing so as to prevent rotting, to clean out debris and to remove dead sharks and other marine life. It is said that 35 - 50% of the sharks are entangled from the beach side. Acoustic "pingers" have been fitted to the nets to warn off dolphins and whales and the nets are not in place in winter, the whale migration season.

Although the nets are not full-proof, they do deter sharks from establishing territories. The netting program began in 1937. During 70 years while the nets have been in operation, there has been only one fatal attack on a netted beach.

Although established net systems in Australia restrict where in the country people can go, they are relatively effective and significantly reduce the potential for an encounter.


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