02 September 2005

No such thing as a man-eater - think of them as goldfish with teeth

EXPERTS say the killer shark would not be the same beast that killed surfer Nick Peterson in waters off West Beach last December.

Associate Professor in Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Adelaide Chris Daniels said there was no such thing as a "man-eater" that repeatedly killed humans in separate attacks.

"It's very, very, very unlikely to be the same shark," he said.

"The thing about Great Whites is that they are not territorial and they cover thousands of kilometres every year and they don't remember what they've eaten before.

"Think of them as goldfish with teeth! They don't have a huge memory."

Shark researcher Andrew Fox said there was no evidence that sharks who attacked one human would go on to attack more.

"It's so easy to say `we don't know' but everything we know about sharks suggests that's not the case," Mr Fox said "There's no evidence of a rogue shark or a repeat offender ? it's something out of `Jaws' mentality."

The Great White is found all around Australia's southern coast but favours waters around South Australia as one of its prime hunting grounds.

Associate Professor Daniels described yesterday's attack as a "tragedy".

"It's appalling," he said.

"But it's nonsense to suggest this is a `man-eater' ? sharks attack for a whole a range of reasons. They will attack because they think it's a seal, because they are hungry or because they are sick."

He said while it was unusual for shark attacks to be reported in Australian waters in the winter, it wasn't unusual behaviour by the shark.

"It's unusual for us to be in the water ? it's not unusual for them to be there. They eat all year around," he said.

"Usually a shark attack is just incredibly, incredibly bad luck especially on a metropolitan beach. They're not more common ? the reality is that the white pointers are on the endangered list.

"In fact, their numbers are decreasing dramatically around the world."

Great Whites grow to 6-7m, have huge and powerful jaws and are also capable of reaching speeds of up to 16km/h ? more than 10km/h faster than the average swimmer, experts say.

The Great White is a protected species in Australia and laws prohibit its hunting.

Last year, Australia announced it would push for a global ban on trade in Great White shark products.

Australia said it would nominate the shark for listing under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

Source: www.underwatertimes.com


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