A search is underway for the body of a man believed to have been killed by a shark while he was surfing.
The 55-year-old surfer was attacked by a shark near Streaky Bay in South Australia at around 10:20 a.m. local time on Tuesday. The man was further out in the water than the other surfers off the beach at the time, many of whom witnessed the attack. “He grabbed him, pulled him back down, brought him back up, pulled him back down again,” one witness told local media 7NEWS.
One of the surfers, Jeff Schmucker, attempted to help the man, finding only a surfboard with a bite in it and a 13-foot shark. Witnesses from the clifftops who saw the attack estimate that the shark was more like 14 or 15 feet long, local news 9NEWS reported.
“The man’s body is yet to be found and the search will continue through to days end,” South Australia Police said in a statement.
The exact species of shark involved in the attack has not been confirmed, however, 7NEWS has shared a video of a large great white shark—also called white pointers—swimming in the area immediately after the attack.
Great white sharks are the largest predatory fish in the world, and can grow to lengths of 20 feet long and weigh up to 5,000 pounds.
“Great white sharks are apex predators,” Kerstin Bilgmann, a lecturer in biological sciences at Australia’s Macquarie University, told Newsweek. “Evolutionary they are a very old species which means they have been in the oceans for a very long time.”
These sharks are thought to have evolved between 4 and 10 million years ago, and have remained the same ever since.
The Florida Museum of Natural History’s International Shark Attack File says there were 57 unprovoked shark bites on humans worldwide in 2022, nine of which were in Australia and 41 in the U.S. Between 2012 and 2021, Australia saw 143 shark attacks, resulting in 20 fatalities.
The attack may be in part due to the time of year, which is when seal pups are learning to swim and whales are found migrating through the area. “That’s a time when white sharks come in close and can be looking for those food sources,” shark expert Andrew Fox told 9NEWS.
This tragedy marks the third shark attack off the South Australian coast this year, only weeks after a woman was bitten on the leg while swimming, and a few months after a man was attacked and killed while surfing.
The local community is distraught by the news of the fatal attack. “I think people in Streaky Bay at the moment will be worrying a lot… in a small town, most people know everyone,” local resident Suzie Kenny told ABC News Australia. “It’s a tight-knit surfing community. People look after each other out there.”
What you can do
Support ‘Fighting for Wildlife’ by donating as little as $1 – It only takes a minute. Thank you.
Fighting for Wildlife supports approved wildlife conservation organizations, which spend at least 80 percent of the money they raise on actual fieldwork, rather than administration and fundraising. When making a donation you can designate for which type of initiative it should be used – wildlife, oceans, forests or climate.
This article by Jess Thomson was first published by Newsweek on 31 October 2023. Lead Image: A great white shark breaks the surface of the waves. Authorities are searching for the body of a surfer who was attacked possibly by such a specimen off the Australian coast. ISTOCK / GETTY IMAGES PLUS.