After the third fatal shark attack in seven weeks, officials in Western Australia are stepping up precautions through both a controversial shark hunt and aerial patrols over waters where some fear there is a rogue, man-hungry shark.
The most recent attack happened Saturday while 32-year-old Texan George Thomas Wainwright was scuba diving near Rottnest Island, a popular tourist destination. Wainwright was alone in the water at the time and his friends were aboard a private boat above. His friends said they saw a flurry of air bubbles before a cloud of blood surfaced and Wainwrights body floated to the top.
His sisters, Brenda Wainwright and Wanda Brannon, spoke to WMBB-TV about their brother, who they said loved the water and was simply at the wrong place at the wrong time.
He was one of a kind, Brannon, told the station. He's more than just a quick news spot. He was our brother and we loved him. He will be missed.
Wainwright had been living on the west coast in Perth for several months on a work visa.
The American's death comes in the wake of two other fatal shark attacks late in 2011. Bryn Martin, a 64-year-old Australian, was on his usual morning swim on Oct. 10 at Perth's Cottlesloe Beach when he disappeared. Police were able to find Martin's shredded swim trunks, leading authorities to believe a great white shark mauled him to death.
21-year-old Kyle Burden was bodyboarding on Sept. 4 at a beach south of Perth when he was attacked. Witnesses at the beach are unsure of the type of shark, but it was said to be 15ft in length.
The attacks have put fear in Western Australians. This many fatal attacks in a short period of time are rare. Typically, Australia only sees about one fatal shark attack per year.
The Australian government made a decision Sunday to hunt for the shark in the area. The West Australian Department of Fisheries set six lines with hooks off of the Rottnest Island in hopes of catching the same shark that killed Wainwright. Later the same day, the lines were taken out of the water after no sharks were spotted in the area.
Because the hooks are baited, there is a possibility they might attract a shark back to the area, Department of Fisheries manager, Toni Cappelluti, told The Associated Press. We don't want to leave them there for a long period of time.
Scientists and conservationists were angered by the unprecedented decision, as Great White Sharks are an endangered.
Scientists believe that it is more likely the shark attacks came from three different sharks, rather than one rogue shark, like those seen in the box office movie Jaws.
A more plausible explanation is that this is the time of year when sharks move along the coast, and there are undoubtedly multiple sharks out there following this exact pattern, Barry Bruce, a great whale expert and marine biologist told The Associated Press.
Researchers are against the shark hunt as there would be no way to tell which shark killed Wainwright unless it was killed and its stomach was cut into. Great white sharks can often swim 40 or 50 miles in a day, so it is likely that the shark is no longer in the area.
Premier Colin Barnett defended his decision to hunt and kill the shark.
This is not about being anti-shark, Colin told The Sydney Morning Herald. It's simply about protecting the public during the summer period when tens of thousands of West Australians go to the beach and we want West Australians to be as safe as possible.
The state has now come up with a solution both scientists and swimmers will appreciate. Aerial helicopters will patrol water along Perth's beaches for four hours a day. The government decided to rent a helicopter until their Surf Life Saving helicopter arrives in November.
Beach patrols will also be on hand from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. in an extended program. Providing week-long aerial patrols will cost the government approximately $1 million through April.
Tourism Council WA chief executive Evan Hall fears that the area will no longer be known for its beautiful beaches, but instead dangerous shark attacks.
Without a doubt it could potentially have an impact on our image as a safe destination, Hall told the West Australian. Image can be everything, particularly in a tight market like tourism. So we've got to do everything to reinforce that we are a safe destination and that is well understood.
There are precautions that swimmers can take to decrease their risk. The number one tip is to swim on patrolled beaches, not only are there trained rescuers, but often these beaches will have more people the deter sharks.
Sharks see in black and white, so it's best to stay off their radar by avoiding wearing light colors and jewelry. Another tip for swimming is to swim during the daytime; sharks often feed at dusk, dawn, or during the night.