“Bruce has been swimming around there for years now finally big enough to attack someone. RIP old mate”
On a pretty autumn morning on a particularly dreamy slice of Australian coastline yesterday, a fifty-nine-year-old surfer was killed in front of his mates by a fifteen-foot Great White.
Locals were familiar with the animal, posting on Facebook, “Bruce has been swimming around there for years now finally big enough to attack someone.”
(The name Bruce refers, of course, to the nickname given to the mechanical Great White in the 1975 film Jaws, sourced either from director Steven Spielberg’s accountant Bruce, who kept balking at the cost overruns on the fake shake, or Spielberg’s lawyer, also called Bruce.)
Fisho Michael Guest, who was on a jetski nearby, told morning TV,
“People just started pointing and yelling at me. I zipped over to just around the corner of the break wall to see what was going on. I didn’t know if somebody was drowning. Then this gentleman said, ‘There’s a guy getting attacked by the shark over there’. Hearing those words straightaway, I just… flattened the throttle on the jet ski. It wasn’t a nice thing to see, to be perfectly honest. I couldn’t believe there was so much blood in the water.”
Three other surfers dragged the man to the beach.
“They pulled the gentleman up, lifted him up around water level,” said Guest. “I could see the horrific injuries that had occurred. Even though it’s a big animal, I don’t know where it was, it was obviously just there somewhere. I didn’t see the shark but the damage was done.”
Last year was the deadliest year for shark attacks in Australia since 1923, pointedly the worst for surfers in the country’s history: five fatals out of the eight, all of ‘em by Great White.
Much hand-wringing in media. Climate change done it and so on.
From a BBC story, Is Australia Really Seeing More Shark Attacks?,
Scientists know that climate change is affecting ocean current movements and weather patterns. Depending on its impact, Associate Prof Hart said, we could in future “potentially see an increase or equally a decrease in shark attacks perhaps in response to those changing environmental variables”
No mention, of course, of the mathematics of what happens when you protect an apex predator for twenty-two years.
After the fourth attack on a surfer last year, and just before a Gold Coast real estate agent was hit and killed at the Superbank, Steve “Longtom” Shearer asked,
“By accident and on purpose, an almost ideal world for the White shark has been created. Protected in Australia since ’99, but likely, according to the supplementary material on the CSIRO population study, to have faced decreasing threats from humans since the late 80’s, bolstered as adults by increases in whale and seal numbers. Boosted as juveniles and sub-adults by decreases in commercial fishing in NSW and the establishment of marine parks along the Australian coastline. We’ve created a world tailormade for our old pal the White shark.
“But if you create such a world, and the White Shark Recovery Plan makes clear such a world is a desirable and wondrous thing then ain’t there a slight ethical obligation to consider the kiddies and old sea dogs who wind up in the jaws of nature’s most long lived apex, opportunistic predator?
“The people who have to drag them in, watch them turn grey while they wait for the chopper to arrive?
“The Mums, Dads, school mates, drinking pals, girlfriends and boyfriends etc etc etc?
“Is there an end state where we can say, OK, too many, let’s go fishing?
“I almost daren’t say it, but it feels like we could be close.”
After yesterday’s fatal attack by a Great White, the first for 2021 though certainly not the last, the smart money is on… never.
For despite everything, despite the overwhelming evidence that Great Whites patrol beaches in abundance and with impunity, nothing, not the roll call of surfers dying, literally, in the mouths of sharks, including a seventeen-year-old girl and a fifteen-year-old boy, will shift a perception in the essential perfection and mythology of the Great White.
This morning, an eight-foot Great White was caught a few hundred metres away from the sight of yesterday’s attack.
One local resident, Kellie Hilder, told the Daily Telegraph her kid Chloe had given up surfing Tuncurry’s clean little tubes ’cause of the Great Whites.
“For the past six months she’s been too scared to go out there. There are so many sharks she’s given up surfing.”