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12/02/2020 - Mark Wakeham 20s yr - FIJI

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12/02/2020 - Mark Wakeham 20s yr - FIJI

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Shark Attack Horror
Man bitten twice by whaler at Frigate Reef Passage off Beqa

A well-known diver in Pacific Harbour, Mark Wakeham, is admitted at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital after he was bitten by a Bronze Whaler shark on Monday morning.

It is believed that a six foot Bronze Whaler shark bit Mr Wakeham twice while he was free diving after 8am at the Frigate Reef Passage, located at the West end of Beqa.

When approached at their home in Pacific Harbour, Mr Wakeham’s siblings declined to comment, but said the parents were with him in hospital. Mr Wakeham is in his early 20s.

“Mark is a well-known spear fisherman and surfer in the area. He was bitten badly on his right arm,” Pacific Harbour resident Ronnie Hyer said.

“The shark bit him and it went and came back to bite him again. This hardly happens because on the first bite the shark will know that it is not food and will then go away.

“The shark must be really hungry to come back and bite him again on the same arm. There have been several shark bites in the last two years, but it is rarely reported.”

As for the attack, Mr Hyer claims that the shark had attacked Mr Wakeham because there was no shark feeding.

Shark feeding in the Beqa waters, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, is a popular attraction for many tourists who visit the country and enjoy diving.

Mr Hyer claimed: “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, shark divers are not feeding sharks anymore and I think this is why this attack happened.”

However, this was disputed by Aqua-Trek Beqa operations manager, Jona Baro.

“Sharks are everywhere and they will only come when we feed them. And for people to say that it is because of us is wrong,” Mr Baro said.

“When we are not there, they are hunting food somewhere else, when we are there then they will come.”

Beqa Adventure Divers’ operations manager Andrew Cumming labelled the claims as “rubbish”.

Public advice

Professional diver Captain Jonathan Smith says it is best that people who spot a shark while out swimming should not try to run or swim away frantically.

“Sharks can come up to water at waist height so the only advice I can give is that you should not have any kind of food that will attract sharks, but when they come for you, you can actually fend them off,” Captain Smith said.

“So, the trick is to not splash on the surface.

“There is no use swimming away from them when you see them because you will not be able to get away from them. When you splash the surface, it will make them get more excited and it will attack.”

Expert opinions

As for the incident, Captain Smith said sharks would move out of their normal hunting grounds when overpopulated.

“The problem is not only the feeding, but because they have been attracting a lot of sharks and the feeding has stopped there is not enough food for all of them,” he said.

“They are used to hand feeding and there was always food for them and now there is no food for them. What makes it worse is that the shark is used to humans.

“Sharks are generally afraid of humans and these sharks are used to being hand fed. They expect humans to have their food all the time so when they see you, they will come to you for food.

“I have swum in the harbour with bull sharks and bronze whalers, but they don’t harm us. But when you have food on you, they will come for you.”

University of the South Pacific Head of Marine Science and shark expert Rico Ciro said: “Sharks are predators and if attracted by the movement of the diver, they could potentially attack simply to test if the animal moving, in this case a human, could be a good prey.”

Police spokesperson Ana Naisoro said nothing was referred to them concerning the incident.

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