Fatal shark attack signals trouble for dive industry

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Posted by on December 12, 2004 at 08:20:49:

In Reply to: Man dies in horror shark attack (Queensland Australia) posted by on December 11, 2004 at 11:07:49:

THE Queensland Government fears a fatal shark attack on the Great Barrier Reef near the tourist haven of Port Douglas could harm the state's $2billion-a-year dive industry.

Tourism Minister Margaret Keech will investigate whether Opal Reef, 40 nautical miles from Cairns, is a "danger zone" for divers in the wake of the death of a 38-year-old spear-fisherman on Saturday.

The father of one from Clifton Beach, north of Cairns, was spear-fishing with two friends near the popular diving reef when he was attacked by a shark which savaged his upper left leg, leaving him to bleed to death.

Friend Les Marsh said the family was "absolutely devastated".

Shark experts believe that because of the ferocity of the attack, it was most likely a bull or black whaler shark, usually found in deeper waters but attracted to the spear-fisherman because of blood in the water.

Ms Keech feared the impact of the attack on Queensland's dive industry, which employs about 25,000 people and forms a significant part of what makes tourism the state's second biggest export.

"If we find that that is an area where sharks are congregating and it is a danger zone, we would have to act," she said.

The man was attacked about 1pm on Saturday when he was spear-fishing 60m from a private boat. Paramedic Leon Oliveri, who was winched on to the boat from a rescue helicopter, said one of the men heard the victim cry out. When they reached him he was surrounded by a large pool of blood and was semi-conscious.

By the time medical help arrived, the man was dead. "He had no pulse and was not breathing," Mr Oliveri said. "We offered some counselling to the two men . . . they would have had a very lonely ride back in."

James Cook University shark researcher Richard Fitzpatrick will examine the bite marks this week to determine the breed of shark.

Port Douglas dive-boat operator Graham Jones was concerned media coverage about the attack would be bad for business. "We have been diving there for six years and have never seen a nasty shark," he said. "That's the only area we go to and we really don't want any publicity."

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