Western Australia residents are calling for a ban on shark hunting to be lifted following five deaths from shark attacks. The average is one attack per year in Australia, but for an unknown reason that average has dramatically increased this year.
According to reports, a great white shark attacked and killed 24-year-old Benjamin Linden. The shark has still not been found, and calls for a ban preventing it from being hunted have been renewed, leading authorities to set traps for the shark.
"Permission was given yesterday to capture and destroy a shark if it was believed to have been the one responsible," Fisheries Department spokesman Tony Cappelluti told the AAP. "At this point in time, we're basically looking for the shark, and if there are any remains found, we'll involve the police."
Fisheries Minister Norman Moore told the press that his department was debating whether to remove the ban on shark hunting and whether great white sharks should still be classified as a protected species. The growing number of fatal incidents is alarming and could be a result of overpopulation.
Moore stated that he "was open to any suggestions from anybody as to where we go to now, because we seriously have got a problem. We have allocated some funds to get a better understanding of the great white sharks and the reasons why fatalities are occurring. I wonder if research might tell us that there are now much greater numbers of great whites than ever before."
Linden was killed off the coast of Wedge Island when a great white began circling him, witness Matt Holmes told Australia's ABC. "By the time I got out there, half of him had been taken… There was blood everywhere. I reached to grab the body, but as I did that, the shark came back and nudged the jet-ski to try to knock me off."
"I just thought about his family and if he had kids," Holmes said. "I just wanted to get him to shore, but when I came back the second time, it took the rest of him."
At least one organization is calling for the shark to remain protected, though. The Wilderness Society's Janita Enevoldsen told the press, "We need to really understand them [the sharks] and not resort to the Neanderthal reaction of a hunt and kill."