A great white shark about 16 feet long, bit a male surfer in half off the coast of Perth in Western Australia. A witness said he saw "half a torso" after the attack. The attack has raised questions about the protected status of the great white shark
ABC Australia reports that the attack occurred south of Wedge Island, a popular holiday destination 100 miles north of Pert at 9 a.m. local time.
AFP reports police say they have not found the surfer's remains. The victim has been identified as Benjamin Linden, 24.
Other surfers report they had noticed a large shark in the area in the days before the attack and nicknamed it "Brutus" because of its size.
According to ABC Australia, the man who witnessed the attack, said: "There was just blood everywhere and a massive, massive [great] white shark circling the body. I reached to grab the body and the shark came at me on the jet-ski and tried to knock me off. I did another loop and when I came back to the body the shark took it."
ABC reports this is the fifth shark attack off the coast of Western Australia in 12 months. Previous victims include American George Wainwright, 32, who was attacked while diving off Rottnest Island in October.
The Australian Associated Press reports that fisheries scientist Rory McAuley, said that Western Australia has become the "deadliest place in the world for shark attacks."
The recent fatal attacks have raised calls for a cull of sharks. But environmental groups and experts have resisted the move. Environmental groups argue that the increase in attacks was due to increase in popularity of water sports and an increase in population.
According to AFP, Western Australia Fisheries Minister Norman Moore, expressed concern at the recent trend. He said: "We have allocated some Aus$14 million ($14 million) extra to get a better understanding of the great white sharks and the reasons why the fatalities are occurring... I wonder if research might tell us that there are now much greater number of great whites than ever before, and maybe we should look at whether they should remain a protected species. This is a very distressing event and to add to the previous four fatalities, it is of great concern to me and to the fisheries department, indeed the government as a whole."
Moore said he is open to "any suggestions from anybody as to where we go to now, because we seriously have got a problem."
But earlier in March, after a fatal attack, state premier Colin Barnett said authorities would not consider a culling program. He argued that "While it's still a rare occurrence, the ocean is the domain of the shark and we go there with a risk always."
AFP reports that Linden's (the victim's) girlfriend Alana Noakes, posted a tribute to him on Facebook. She said: "I'm devastated to let everyone know that my beautiful man... was the surfer who was taken by the shark at Wedge. He was the love of my life, my best friend, my rock and my soulmate. Let's remember that he was doing something that meant the world to him. Surfing was his soul, his life, his culture and his passion."
Beaches remained closed on Sunday along Australia's west coast after the attack that has reignited debates whether great white sharks should retain the status of protected species.
USA Today reports Australian Fisheries officials say they are hunting for the animal and that they will kill it if they find it. A fisheries spokesman said: "We'll go right through to nightfall tonight; we will then resume that tomorrow morning and make some decisions tomorrow."
USA Today also reports that local officials, including the coast guard, are searching for the remains of the victim.
The Western Australian fisheries department says the area is home to more than 100 species of shark, ranging from the pygmy shark at just 30 centimetres, to the whale shark that grows up to 12 metres.