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West Australia 5th Fatal Shark Attack in Year Shuts Beaches

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Shark Men’s Filming Halted After Fatal Attack Near Cape Town
Koeel Bay is part of Cape Town’s False Bay, home to Seal Island where many tourists go cage diving to see white sharks. Photographer: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

July 15 (Bloomberg) -- Western Australia state closed beaches and began hunting for a great white shark believed to be responsible for the fifth fatal attack in less than a year, the fisheries department said.

The shark yesterday took a surfer off an isolated beach at Wedge Island, 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of the state capital, Perth, the department’s Shark Response Unit spokesman, Tony Cappelluti, said in a phone interview today. The man’s remains haven’t been recovered.

“We’ve had officers patrolling the beach since first light today and there’s been no further sightings of the shark,” Cappelluti said. Beaches in the area will remain closed until tomorrow morning, he said.

There are 165 shark species in Australian waters and several, including great white, tiger and bull sharks, are dangerous to humans. Western Australia, which is spending A$14 million ($14.3 million) over the next four years to reduce the risk of attacks, had four fatal shark attacks in a six-month period from last September to last March, according to website sharkattackfile.

Tourism operators in Western Australia, the region at the forefront of the nation’s mining boom, attempt to lure domestic and international visitors to the state’s 12,000-kilometer-long coastline which is studded with pristine beaches. The tourism industry reaps about A$8.1 billion a year and creates 73,300 jobs, according to a Tourism Council document released last year.

Serious Problem

The 24-year-old man who died was paddling his surf board when he was taken, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported, citing a witness whose jet-ski was also attacked by the shark he described as being five meters (16 feet) long. The man tried to recover the body before the shark took it, he said.

Western Australia may have to review the policy of protecting great white sharks, said the state’s fisheries minister, Norman Moore, according to ABC. He was cited as saying he was perplexed as to how to counter the shark attacks, which have become a serious problem.

Tourism operators will be banned from feeding the predators to attract them to cage dives, a practice that might change their behavior in ways posing potential risks to the public, the state government said July 8.

Studies by Australia’s government scientific agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, weren’t clear about whether feeding great white sharks changed their behavior in the long term, the government said. Such risk must be set against any economic benefits, it said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jason Scott in Canberra at jscott14@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Tighe at ptighe@bloomberg.net

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