A great white shark has been caught by Fisheries officers and will be killed after a 23-year-old man was attacked off Esperance, Western Australia, on Thursday.
Department of Fisheries confirmed that officers had used two baited hooks to catch the shark, which they said was between 3m and 4.5m long. It was caught within an hour after hooks were set a beach in Wylie Bay, about 6km east of the south coast town.
The man, believed to be Bunbury man Sean Pollard, suffered devastating injuries, including the loss of both arms, while he surfed 150m offshore at the remote surfbreak at 11am. He is believed to have been with his girlfriend when the shark struck.
Pollard is a player with the South Bunbury Football Club which released a statement on its Facebook page today in support of him and his family.
“Today a young man was attacked by a shark in Esperance. Unfortunately the young man is one of our own in Sean Pollard,” it read.
“Our Thoughts are with Polly and his family from everyone at South Bunbury Football Club. We are with you all the way mate.”
Pollard was rushed to Esperance Hospital and flown to Perth by the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
Fisheries Department Shark Response Unit manager Lisa Clack said the Federal Government had granted an exemption for baited lines to catch the shark which posed an “imminent threat”.
The catch order was issued by the Fisheries Director-General on Thursday afternoon, she said.
“We can confirm that a white shark of approximately 3 to 4.5m in length has been caught by the department’s officers in the location of the incident,” Clack said.
“On the basis that white sharks of this size are known to have bitten humans, often with fatal consequences, the decision has been taken to destroy the shark humanely.
“The shark will be destroyed. At the moment, Department of Fisheries officers are working with department shark scientists to determine the most appropriate, humane and safe way for officers to dispatch that shark,” she said just after 3.30pm on Thursday.
“A Fisheries Department boat was deployed from Esperance and two baited lines were set in the area of the incident around 12.30pm, which was within an hour of the initial incident occurring.”
But she could not confirm the caught shark was the same one that attacked the surfer.
“However, given the shark has been caught in the immediate vicinity and it’s a white shark, which is a species that’s known to attack humans sometimes with fatal consequences, then it’s a decision we’ve taken at this time.”
Clack said the decision to set drum lines had been made given the remote nature of the location, school holidays, campers nearby and it is not a patrolled beach.
A St John Ambulance spokesman said the person who made the initial 000 call said the man had lost a hand and his other arm from the elbow, as well as lacerations to a leg.
The Royal Flying Doctor Service confirmed Pollard had lost both arms.
A police escort rushed blood to Jandakot Airport for transport to Esperance Hospital for possible blood transfusions before he was flown to Perth.
It is understood that authorities have attempted to retrieve his surfboard from the water.
Esperance Express journalist Molly Baxter said it was believed the victim was 23.
She said rangers had since closed the beach, which was usually for access by four-wheel-drives only.
Baxter also said there were reports of a shark in the area during the past fortnight.
Police have said the victim’s family is from the South West town of Bunbury.
Esperance Shire president Malcolm Heasman described the incident as “dreadful for those involved and we send our prayers and best wishes to the young man and his immediate family”.
“I understand that staying out of the water may be an inconvenience for some however it has been recommended that we should resist the urge for the next few days for our own safety,” he said.
The West Australia government has implemented a number of programs throughout the state in an attempt to mitigate the risk of shark attacks following seven fatal attacks across a three-year period since 2010.
Last summer, baited hooks on drum lines were deployed off Perth beaches and others in the state’s south-west but none as far away as Esperance, which is more than eight hours’ drive south-east of Perth.