UK & World News
Great White Attack Deaths Spark Call For Cull
A fifth fatal shark attack off Australia's west coast has re-opened the debate about culling great whites.
On average there are 15 shark attacks on humans each year in Australia, with one fatality.
But in the last 10 months five people have been killed and local marine scientists say the region is the world's deadliest.
The latest victim was surfer Benjamin Linden, 24, who was bitten in half by a great white shark last Saturday. His body still has not been found.
He was surfing with a friend near Wedge Island, north of Perth, when he was mauled by the huge shark, said to be up to five metres (16ft) long.
Western Australia Fisheries Minister Norman Moore has expressed concern at the trend of fatalities.
"We have allocated some $14m (£9m) extra to get a better understanding of the great white sharks and the reasons why the fatalities are occurring," he said.
"I wonder if research might tell us that there are is now a much greater number of great whites than ever before, and maybe we should look at whether they should remain a protected species."
Great whites became a protected species in Australia in the 1990s. Anecdotal evidence suggests numbers have significantly increased but there is no concrete proof.
A tagging and tracking programme was introduced last year and has shown the great whites, which have no predators other than humans, whales and other sharks, can linger off Australia's west coast for months at a time.
The authorities are struggling to find a solution to reduce the threat to human life.
Mr Moore said he was open to "any suggestions from anybody as to where we go to now, because we seriously have got a problem".
Many surfers and ocean swimmers are against a cull or lifting the protected status saying the threat to human life is tiny and it is a risk they are prepared to take.
However, with closed beaches and global media attention such tragedies damage the region's reputation and tourism industry.
Glenn Orgias was mauled by a shark off Bondi beach, Sydney, three years ago. He lost his hand and part of his arm. Incredibly, he has begun surfing again.
"My thoughts go out to this latest victim's friends and family," he told Sky News.
"Culling, though, is not the answer. We should spend a lot more money on research to understand how sharks move and what their migration patterns are like, where they live and what the environmental variables are when they attack."
It is a view shared by shark expert Martin Garwood, from Sydney Aquarium.
"What would be a good benefit from this debate is if this protected status is reassessed. That would require a population study to really try and gauge how many there are on the west coast and when they are around.
"That would definitely tell you, based on what we already know, that there aren't many around so culling is definitely not an option to manage this species and keep us safe as well."
Christopher Neff, from the University of Sydney, has studied shark attacks for many years.
He says that rather than killing sharks, better education is needed on how to limit the chance of attack. Among other precautions, he suggests "avoid swimming after heavy storms, avoid swimming at dawn and dusk, swim closer to shore, avoid swimming alone, avoid areas with active fishing or other waste".