01/29/2014 - Richard O'Connor - Australia

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01/29/2014 - Richard O'Connor - Australia

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Fisherman Richard O'Connor bitten by shark while fishing at Umina Beach

Richard O'Connor was bitten by a shark at Umina Beach on Australia Day - and he wasn't even in the water.

No, it wasn't a scene from the cult disaster movie Sharknado - Mr O'Connor, of Umina Beach, had popped down to do a spot of late afternoon rock fishing when the drama unfolded.

"I was trying for some bream or flathead but the fellow fishing next to me hooked a reef shark," Mr O'Connor said.

"We managed to get it off the hook between us but as we lay it on the rocks my hand slipped and the shark grabbed it."

Mr O'Connor jerked his two fingers free of the shark's jaws but the damage was done.

"The other fellow had a look and said it would definitely need stitches so we applied a makeshift pressure bandage."

With his hand bandaged and carrying his fishing gear and the now dead 1m shark, Mr O'Connor walked to his nearby home where he changed the bandage and asked a neighbour to drive him for medical treatment.

"Being Australia Day I was wary of hours of waiting at a hospital so my neighbour took me to the new Reliance GP Super Clinic and I was home within 45 minutes with five stitches," he said.

"I was lucky not to sustain tendon damage and the hand should heal completely although I will have a scar no doubt."

Mr O'Connor said he regularly saw a variety of sharks in the waters off the rocks including makos and even the odd tiger shark.

"The whole experience seems a bit surreal - those things tend to happen in slow motion as far as your perception goes. I just didn't respect the shark enough."


Staff at the Super Clinic didn't know whether to be more surprised that their last patient on Australia Day was a victim of a shark bite or that he turned up the next day with a bottle of wine for the doctor and chocolates for the girls at reception.

"This is not what happens," senior clinician Dr Rodney Beckwith said.

"It's certainly the first shark bite we have treated since we opened six months ago and definitely the first patient to return with wine and chocolates."

The Department of Primary Industries was unable to confirm the shark species as the photograph provided by Mr O'Connor did not show the entire fish.

Reef sharks are not officially listed in NSW waters and it is likely the name is a generic term used by anglers.

A spokesperson suggested it could have been a bronze whaler shark which are found throughout NSW waters from the upper reaches of estuarine rivers to offshore areas.

Bronze whalers grow to between 2.5 and 4m depending on the species.

They are easy to confuse with many other sharks.

The species could also be a mako which occurs along the entire NSW coast, and is widespread in most of Australia's coastal shelf and ocean waters. Makos - which can grow to 3.2m - are renowned for their ability to leap out of the water and cases of angry makos jumping into boats after being hooked have been recorded.

The department's website provides information on sharks, what protections exist for particular species and the rules that apply to recreational fishing of sharks.

The Department of Primary Industries suggested the special may have been a small bronze whaler.

Protesters will be gathering at a rally at The Entrance this Saturday against Western Australia's catch and kill policy for sharks.

Surfers, scientists and conservationists will join members to protest against the Western Australian Government's new policy to catch and kill sharks.

Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt this week granted the WA Government a temporary exemption from national environment laws protecting great white sharks. Those opposed to the plan are pushing for more research and funding for science and technology that may be able to provide non-lethal alternatives to culling sharks.

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