Grey Nurse shark attacks surfer at Pyramids Beach near Mandurah Western Australia recent 2015 shark attack
Shark tooth left in victim's foot after attack in Western Australia
Eli Zawadzki bitten by what experts believe was normally-placid grey nurse shark while was surfing near Mandurah on
Shark experts have identified the shark responsible for biting a man near Mandurah, Western Australia, as the usually “very, very placid” grey nurse shark, based on a fragment of tooth pulled from the teenager’s foot.
Eli Zawadzki, an apprentice electrician from Mandurah, was bitten on the lower leg and foot while surfing off Pyramids Beach, about 70km south of Perth, at 5pm on Wednesday.
The bite left Zawadski with a serious laceration and he was transferred from Peel health campus to Royal Perth hospital on Wednesday night, where he later underwent surgery.
His mother, Eleni, told the ABC on Thursday morning that Eli had been put on an intensive course of antibiotics and would have to remain in hospital for a few days, but was expected to make a full recovery.
“He is going to be OK, he’s having surgery this morning,” she said.
“Fisheries have taken a tooth that they pulled out of his leg, of his foot, and hopefully that will identify what kind of shark it was.”
Later, Tony Cappelluti from the Department of Fisheries identified the tooth as belonging to a grey nurse shark, a medium-sized shark that is protected in states throughout Australia, including WA.
“Grey nurse are very, very placid sharks, one of the most placid, it’s very rare for one of them to be involved in a shark bite or an attack,” Cappelluti said.
“It’s probably likely that there’s been some mistaken interaction, so either the shark has run into the surfer or the surfer has run into the shark, that’s normally how grey nurse get involved in shark bite incidents.”
Cappelluti said Zawadski reported paddling out to the breaks about 40 metres offshore and feeling a bite on his foot as he sat up on his board.
“When he turned around, he saw a head and he didn’t think it was a very large shark but thought it was a shark and obviously he paddled in,” he said.
Fisheries patrol boats didn’t reach the beach until dusk last night and are not allowed to lay out drumlines – hooked lines used to catch sharks – after sunset. By Thursday morning, Cappelluti said, there was no need to attempt to capture the shark. The beach remained closed and patrols had not spotted any sharks.
Pyramids Beach was the site of another shark attack in November 2014. That bite, also to the leg of a surfer, was less serious – the 13-year-old victim was able to bicycle home and eat raisin toast before suggesting his parents take him to hospital.
The beach remained closed on Thursday morning, and the Department of Fisheries patrolled the area searching for sharks.
Under an agreement with the commonwealth, the WA government can catch and kill sharks deemed to be a “serious threat” to public safety. That includes sharks believed to have been involved in an attack.
According to the “serious threat” guidelines, the policy is usually applied to what is termed a “high hazard” shark, described as a great white, bull, or tiger shark greater than 3m in length.
However in a statement provided to Natalie Banks, the founder of No Shark Cull, a movement started in response to the WA government’s trial shark cull that was introduced following a spate of fatal attacks, the department said those guidelines were “not definitive,” saying, “it is recognised that every situation where they may be applied is likely to be different, and as such decision makers will need to exercise judgment based on the available information”.
The WA government was forced to shelve its shark cull after it was rejected by the Environmental Protection Authority. In New South Wales, the premier, Mike Baird, held a shark summit last week to assess options to deter sharks from populous beaches, after a particularly bad year for shark attacks on the state’s north coast - there have been 13 this year, the latest six weeks ago.
Spring is peak shark season in WA, and the combination of a high population of sharks off the coast and warming weather makes the three months from October to December the most likely time for attacks. The last fatal shark attack in WA was on 29 December, when 17-year-old Jay Muscat was fatally bitten by a great white shark while spearfishing near Albany, on the south coast. Bunbury surfer Sean Pollard lost part of both his arms in an attack by a great white shark off Esperance, also on the south coast, three months earlier.
“We have had a late salmon run … that combined with now the snapper spawning season, and we have whales and bait fish, means that all the environmental conditions are out for increased sharks, and that means increased shark encounters,” Banks told Guardian Australia.
The Department of Fisheries last Wednesday warned that an “unusual number” of tagged bronze whaler sharks, which can grow to just over 3m in length, had been detected by its radio receiver at Garden Island, about 60km north of Pyramids Beach, over the past seven days.
In a statement, the department said, “it is possible the frequency or duration of the recent reported sightings and detections may increase the likelihood of encountering a shark in Perth metropolitan waters.”
The department said the shark detections could be attributed to the increase to high numbers of salmon and spawning snapper, which congregate in Cockburn Sound, next to Garden Island.