A person was killed in the first fatal shark attack in Sydney, Australia since 1963 on Wednesday. According to police, the victim was a 35-year-old ocean swimmer who was in the water for an afternoon swim. Thirteen beaches across Sydney were closed on the day after the attack.
“Based on footage provided by the public including eyewitness accounts…shark biologists believe that a White Shark, at least three metres in length, was likely responsible,” the state government’s Department of Primary Industries said.
When the victim was attacked, fishermen and golfers enjoying the sunny day outdoors had to watch helplessly from nearby cliffs. A rescue helicopter and several ambulances were dispatched to the scene, but the swimmer died after suffering what first responders described as “catastrophic injuries.”
In addition to beach closures, an ocean swimming race scheduled to take place in the area the weekend following the attack was postponed. 800 swimmers were entered in the race.
State officials announced they were deploying six SMART drumlines near where the shark attack occurred. Drumlines use baited hooks and are used to trap sharks that can then be tagged and moved farther away from the beach, into deeper parts of the ocean where swimmers and other recreationalists are unlikely to go. Drumlines are controversial because hooked marine animals sometimes die before they can be moved. Non-target animals can became caught on the hooks as well.
Drones and boats carrying spotters were deployed to the area as well to try and spot the shark responsible for the attack and catch it. Many online commenters on the original article that appeared on CBSNews.com spoke up in defense of the shark and decried those who wanted it dead, but the information presented so far does not indicate that local authorities are trying to euthanize the shark, only relocate it.
According to research from the International Shark Attack File, unprovoked shark attacks rose last year for the first time in years across the world. 73 attacks were reported globally. Australia had the highest number of fatal attacks, with three of their 12 reported unprovoked attacks resulting in deaths.
Water sports and activities are a daily part of many beach communities, including those around Sydney. Each day, numerous surfers, swimmers, and paddleboarders go into the waves to exercise to get away from the hustle of city life.
“We all know that we take a risk every time we get in the water,” Kim Miller told CBS News. Miller, 45, began swimming in the ocean when she moved to Sydney two years ago.
“It’s hit a little bit closer today when we heard it was a long-distance ocean swimmer, knowing it’s a route that we’ve done so many times,” Miller told CBS News shortly after the fatal attack at her home beach. “I feel a little bit sick this afternoon.”
Miller said she swam in a pool the day after the attack, but said she’ll return to the ocean one day because “eventually we’ll all have the courage to get back in.”