Shark Attack Claims 50-Year Old British ExpatSeptember 26, 2014

A 3-metre great white shark was believed to kill a 50-year-old man in NSW's Byron Bay. Paul Wilcox, a British expat, and his wife were on the beach when the shark attacked. Police used jet-skis to scare it out to sea.

Inspector Bobbie Cullen said a rescue chopper was monitoring the shark and would attempt to "relocate" the animal.

"It's not confirmed at this stage but it looks like it's a great white. I'm pretty sure he (the victim) was out swimming on his own. His wife was on the beach at the time," she said.

The beach was not patrolled at the time of the attack. It happened at 10:30 AM, scaring the bathers. But they were back in the surf later that afternoon. Richard Buxton, who lived near the area, would still go for a swim. He had been swimming for twenty years. The sharks would swim with them, he said, pointing out that there would be one attack in two decades.

Mark Hickey, Newcastle lawyer, was one of the first people on the scene. He first thought it was a seaweed until he noticed the blood in the water. He mistaken the dead body for a turtle when he saw the shark circling and the object moving.

This happened after a 63-year-old from Tathra was fatally attacked last April.

Confirmed and unprovoked

According to the International Shark Attack File (ISAF), there are 2,667 shark attacks around the world between 1580 and 2013. They are confirmed and unprovoked, where 495 are fatal. United States is ranked the highest in terms of global shark attacks with 1,055 attacks. Australia is the second highest with 704, but it ranked the highest in terms of shark fatalities at 202. The highest death rate occurs in Western Australia, with seven attacks in the last few years.

Shark attacks may be due to territorial reasons, but George H. Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File, has an interesting theory.

"Attacks are basically an odds game based on how many hours you are in the water," he said.

The Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916 killed four people and injured one. It happened during a summer heat wave and polio epidemic in Northeastern United States. This drove thousands of people to the seaside resorts of the Jersey Shore. There was a debate on which shark species were involved and what drove them to that part of the Atlantic, as the great white shark and bull shark were the ones often blamed. Scholars speculated the number of people was the cause of the attack, which made these apex predators curious about something unusual in their territory. The incident led to a wave of panic resulting to shark hunts. This became part of popular culture.

There are more attacks, but it didn't come close to the tragedy in New Jersey. Scientific knowledge is still based on conjecture. The Byron Bay incident is no different.

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