Greg Pickering in Perth hospital after second shark attack
A PORT Lincoln abalone diver miraculously survived a second shark attack on Tuesday, almost a decade after he was mauled by a bronze whaler.
A “catch and kill” order was issued hours after a shark attacked Greg Pickering, 55, off the coast of Esperance in Western Australia.
Mr Pickering was working about 180km east of Esperance when he was attacked and seriously injured. He was expected to be taken to a Perth hospital by the Royal Flying Doctor Service late on Tuesday.
Police were alerted to the attack at 10.25am. Mr Pickering was taken to shore by divers on a nearby boat and transferred to Esperance Hospital by St John Ambulance just before 2pm.
Mr Pickering, who bases himself in Port Lincoln for three to four months every year to dive for abalone on the state’s West Coast, is renowned in the industry as a hardworking diver with freakish skills.
He survived a mauling by a 1.5m bronze whaler in March 2004, while spearfishing with a friend about 9km off Cervantes, 200km north of Perth.
He also holds several freedive spearfishing world records, and joined the elite “300 club” after spearing a 307-pound tuna off the coast of Mexico in 1998.
Mr Pickering was working for Southern Wild Abalone when he was attacked.
According to AAP, he was collecting the delicacy off Poison Creek at Cape Arid National Park, about 180km east of Esperance, when he was attacked by a white pointer shark.
He suffered bite wounds, mainly to his torso, and has minor injuries to his face.
The company’s manager Marcus Tromp told the ABC a nearby diving vessel came to help the man, brought him back to shore and called for help.
The remote area of coast they were diving off is only accessible by four wheel drive.
Mr Tromp said Mr Pickering suffered “substantial injuries”.
“Another diver’s boat was in the vicinity so they have come to assist the crew, give first aid and obviously to bring the diver’s vessel to shore and administer first aid while this diver remained on the deck of his boat and rendezvous with the ambulance,” Mr Tromp said.
“He would have been preparing for his daily business and unfortunately this has occurred.
Obviously, there has been some substantial injuries with any encounter with a shark.”
Abalone Industry Association of South Australia president Jonas Woolford said there were very few divers in the fishery who commanded the respect Mr Pickering did.
“He’s been diving on the West Coast for decades,” Mr Woolford said.
“He’s a very hard worker. He’s like a fish – I’d say he was more comfortable in the water than out.”
The WA Department of Fisheries issued the order to hunt the shark on Tuesday and said staff would travel to the site, near Cape Arid, to deploy “capture gear”.
Mr Tromp said Mr Pickering lived in the area and the company was liaising with his family.
“I understood that he was still conscious and in good hands as far as first aid goes,” he said.
“All divers, especially at that age, have had a passion for the ocean for their entire life.
In March, 2004, Mr Pickering was spearfishing about five nautical miles from Cervantes when he was attacked twice by the bronze whaler.
The shark mauled his shin and calf, ripping through his wetsuit.
In an interview with the Ten network, he said: “The shark just turned on me and charged at me and it latched onto my leg and it bit twice.
“It wasn’t excruciating pain, I was surprised. I could see there was a big chunk of skin hanging off and the wetsuit was sort of holding it together.”
He said he’d had many close encounters with sharks during more than thirty years of abalone diving.
“If sharks are hungry they can snap,” he said.
“All can be calm and then they just explode into action.”
Witness Alan Ogden told The Sunday Times at the time that Mr Pickering “was a pretty tough bloke”.
“He was quite calm about it,” Mr Ogden said.
“He said it was not hurting as much as he thought it would.”
Mr Woolford said Mr Pickering dives for abalone along a vast stretch of the SA coastline, from Wedge Island in Spencer Gulf to D’Entrecasteaux Reef near the West Australian border.
“And he would know every bit of it,” he said.
Mr Woolford said shark attacks were a frightening reality for abalone divers.
“It’s something that’s always on the back of your mind when you’re working,” he said.
“Particularly since the death of Peter Clarkson a couple of years ago.”
Mr Clarkson was taken by a great white shark while diving for abalone off Coffin Bay in 2011.
Mr Pickering is no stranger to dangerous situations in the ocean, having survived a shark attack in Western Australia in 2004. He was also dragged along the ocean floor by his air hose when his boat capsized off the coast of Ceduna in 2009.
After surfacing, Mr Pickering dived into the sunken boat to retrieve an emergency beacon to alert rescuers.