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Fatal Shark Attack in Australia Follows Protests to Stop Cull

Shark-Culling Protest
Demonstrators sit on the beach during a shark-culling policy protest at Cottesloe Beach on February 1, 2014 in Perth, Australia. Photographer: Paul Kane/Getty Images

A shark killed a 28-year-old man off a beach in South Australia, days after nationwide protests against a government cull aimed at preventing such attacks.

The Adelaide resident was with a group of spear fishermen when he was taken on Feb. 8 on Yorke Peninsula, police said in a statement yesterday. Emergency teams were unable to find any trace of his body, police said.

The government of Western Australia in December said it would deploy dozens of baited lines off local beaches to kill sharks after seven fatal attacks in three years. Thousands of protesters rallied against the plans this month. The Australian Marine Conservation Society and Greenpeace are among groups arguing that the cull disrupts the ecosystem while doing little to prevent further incidents.

“It’s really tragic what happened to that man, but the cull will not make people safer in the water,” Pam Allen, a Brisbane-based marine campaigner at the Australian Marine Conservation Society, said by phone. “There’s no scientific evidence the cull will work.”

Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett said Dec. 27 that as many as 72 drum lines -- baited hooks attached to floats -- will be set 1 kilometer off popular beaches where sharks have been spotted most often. The traps aim to catch white, bull and tiger sharks measuring over 3 meters (10 feet), he said.

Other Deaths

A tiger shark was the first to be killed under the program on Jan. 26, according to the West Australian newspaper. The creature was hooked and then shot in the head four times before being dumped 5 kilometers out to sea, the newspaper said.

The state has suffered 20 fatal shark attacks in 100 years, according to the government.

At Manly Beach in Sydney, thousands of protesters rallied Feb. 1 to oppose the cull, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. At least nine other protests took place that day, stretching from New South Wales and Victoria to South Australia and Tasmania, the newspaper said.

More than 30,000 people have signed a petition at the website calling on Premier Barnett to stop the program.

The hooks might kill dolphins and sea turtles, the Australian Marine Conservation Society said Feb. 3. Funds would be better spent on early detection systems, community education and research, Piers Verstegen, director at The Conservation Council of Western Australia, said the same day.

At Goldsmith Beach on South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula over the weekend, authorities told nearby swimmers to get out of the water after the man disappeared, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported. Local residents said a Great White shark had been seen in the area in the past week, the ABC said.

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