epa04853454 A handout picture made available by the World Surf League of Australia's Mick Fanning being attacked by a shark in the final round of the JBay Open surfing event as part of the World Surf League in Jeffreys Bay, South Africa, 19 July 2015. The final round was cancelled after Fanning was being attacked by a shark. EPA/WORLD SURF LEAGUE HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES
epa04853454 A handout picture made available by the World Surf League of Australia's Mick Fanning being attacked by a shark in the final round of the JBay Open surfing event as part of the World Surf League in Jeffreys Bay, South Africa, 19 July 2015. The final round was cancelled after Fanning was being attacked by a shark. EPA/WORLD SURF LEAGUE HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES

‘Shark was curious not aggressive’

By KAMCILLA PILLAY Time of article published Jul 20, 2015

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Durban - The shark that approached surfer Mick Fanning during the J-Bay Open final looked like a great white, two experts told the Daily News on Monday.

The giant predator also appeared to have approached the sportsman out of curiosity and not aggression, they said.

Fanning was paddling out to ride his first wave when the shark surfaced next to him, knocking the 34-year-old off his board.

“I was just sitting there and I felt something just get stuck in my leg rope, and I was kicking trying to get it away,” Fanning, nicknamed “White Lightning”, told Fox Sports. “I punched him in the back”.

“I instantly just jumped away. It kept coming at my board and I was kicking and screaming. I just saw fins. I was waiting for the teeth.”

After the shark apparently swam away, the shaken three-time world champion headed towards the beach and was picked up by a support craft.

The incident, which was broadcast on live TV, led to the cancellation of the final against compatriot Julian Wilson.

Head of Research at the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board, Geremy Cliff, said the shark could have easily taken a bite out of the board and Fanning.

 

 

“Sharks, when aggressive, can do lots of damage… This did not happen.”

He said sharks moved long distances up and down the coastline, occasionally coming close to shore.

 

There had been three incidents involving a shark in recent weeks - at Buffalo Bay and Plettenberg Bay in the southern Cape and Port St Johns. But, said Cliff, it was unlikely they were related to the Jeffrey’s Bay incident.

But, he added: “We’ve had tagged sharks swim from South Africa to Australia and back. They cover far vaster distances than this stretch of coast.”

Michael Rutzen, a shark conservation expert and free diver based in Kleinbaai, in the southern Cape, said after incidents like these, sharks were demonised.

“What we need is a forensic investigation - the behaviour of the shark as well as human beings needs to be examined. There is no such thing as an unprovoked attack,” he said, adding that the Fanning incident was not an attack.

He was quick to point out that he was not blaming Fanning, but said humans were encroaching on the habitat of the sharks and surfers and spear fishermen knew the risks.

He said that when people wore bright colours and added other elements such as glitter, it piqued the interest of sharks.

“This shark was probably a teenager, no more than three metres long.”

Daily News and Reuters

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