Pro surfers scared to compete after WA shark attacks

 abc.net.au  4/17/2018 12:07:37 AM   James Carmody

Updated April 17, 2018 13:11:08

Two of the world's top surfers say they do not feel comfortable competing in Western Australia's Margaret River region in the wake of two shark attacks that happened just hours and a few kilometres apart.

A shark warning remains in place for waters between Kilcarnup and North Point near Margaret River on the state's South West coast after the attacks yesterday.

The Margaret River Pro international surfing event was taking place about 15 kilometres away and was put on hold for an hour following the first attack, before resuming with extra patrols and drones to look out for sharks.

The joint World Surf League (WSL) ratings leader, Italo Ferreira, took to social media to voice his concern.

"Two shark attacks in less than 24 hours here in Australia, just a few kilometres from where the event is being held," the Brazilian surfer said on Instagram.

"Very dangerous, don't you think?

"Is the safety of athletes not priority? We've had multiple alerts.

"Life goes [on] more than that! I hope it doesn't happen to any of us.

I don't feel comfortable training and competing in places like this."

Fellow Brazilian professional surfer Gabriel Medina also posted his concerns on Instagram, saying he did not feel safe training and competing in areas where anything could happen at any time.

Medina and Australian surfer Mick Fanning were plucked from the water at Jeffreys Bay in South Africa in July 2017 after a three-metre shark was spotted nearby.

Today's heats at the Margaret River Pro have already been called off due to poor conditions, but organisers have also advised competitors not to surf in the area.

"WSL continues to assess the current situation at the Margaret River Pro where there have been two confirmed shark incidents near Gracetown in the last 24 hours," the WSL said.

"We have actioned our well-established safety protocols and are gathering all the latest information to determine the next steps.

"We will continue to liaise with all involved, most importantly the surfers, their safety remains paramount."

Victim struggled with shark before body surfing to shore

Margaret River local and father-of-two Alejandro Travaglini — a crew member at the surfing competition — is recovering from emergency surgery after his legs were savaged by a suspected white pointer in the first attack near Gracetown yesterday morning.

Separated from his surfboard in the struggle at the Cobblestones surf break, Mr Travaglini was helped by fellow surfers and managed to body surf a wave into the shallows.

Friends used a leg rope as a makeshift tourniquet — which paramedics say may have saved the man's live — before a rescue helicopter flew him to Royal Perth Hospital.

Following surgery, Mr Travaglini said his family was by his side and he was grateful to those who had rescued him.

"I just want to thank all the legends who helped me up the beach," he said in a statement

Second surfer attacked after warnings ignored

Despite the closure of surrounding beaches and the discovery of a whale carcass washed up nearby, it was not long before prime conditions tempted dozens of surfers back into the water.

Several sharks were spotted in the area throughout the day, including a 4.5 metre white shark at the Lefthanders break shortly before 3:00pm.

Not long after that sighting a second man, 41-year-old Jason Longrass from Denmark, was attacked by a shark but escaped with a gash to his leg.

He was treated at the scene.

Government 'not doing enough': Nahan

The attacks in Gracetown occurred just one day before the first anniversary of the death of 17-year-old Laeticia Brouwer, who was attacked near Esperance.

The Government was criticised at the time for not issuing a catch and kill order for the shark involved.

There have been 15 fatal shark attacks in WA since 2000.

Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly announced the State Government's shark mitigation plans last May, with the main feature a subsidy for shark deterrent devices.

But Opposition Leader Mike Nahan accused the State Government of not doing enough to deter shark attacks, and again criticised Labor's subsidisation of shark shield devices.

"The safety devices [the Government] subsidises are available only to Western Australians and therefore not to visitors," he said.

"[The] current policies are simply not adequate to protect West Australians, visitors and tourists from shark attack.

"Again it emphasises the need to do more. Smart buoys, smart drumlines on beaches and nets."

The WA Government has resisted pressure from the Federal Government to reintroduce shark drum lines and nets, saying they do not work.

A study released in February cast doubt on anecdotal claims of a jump in shark numbers off WA's coast, flaring renewed debate over whether the state needed to do more to protect swimmers.

Topics: animal-attacks, shark, surfing, sport, gracetown-6284, perth-6000, wa

First posted April 17, 2018 10:07:37

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