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Calls to lift ban on Australia shark fishing as surfer 'bitten in half'

By Kathy Marks in Sydney

Officials in Western Australia called on the federal government yesterday to lift a ban on the fishing of great white sharks following an unprecedented fifth death in its waters within less than a year.

Speaking after a 24-year-old surfer, Ben Linden, was bitten in half by a "massive" shark on Saturday, the state's Fisheries Minister, Norman Moore, said the spate of fatal attacks was "cause for great alarm".

The killing of Mr Linden, who was paddling his board near remote Wedge Island, 100 miles north of Perth, has cemented the west coast's reputation as the world's deadliest shark-attack zone.

A hunt for the fish that killed him, believed to be 16ft long, was called off yesterday. Ministers had ordered any shark of that size to be killed on sight.

A jet-skier who witnessed the attack and tried to retrieve Mr Linden's remains said the shark went for him.

"By the time I got out there, half of him had been taken and the shark was circling," Matt Holmes (22) told the Australian TV channel ABC.

"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."

The shark, which other surfers had noticed over the previous four days and nicknamed 'Brutus' because of its size, was last seen heading out to deeper waters.

Warning the attacks were harming the state's tourism industry, Mr Moore said he would lobby Canberra to lift the ban on commercial and recreational fishing of great whites.

Anecdotal evidence suggested their numbers have recovered significantly since they became a protected species in Australia in the 1990s.

In Australia as a whole, an average of one person a year is killed by sharks.

The government's response to the latest attack was condemned by Jenita Enevoldsen of the Wilderness Society, who said: "We need to understand them [the sharks], and not resort to a Neanderthal reaction of hunt and kill."

Mr Moore agreed more research was needed to plot the sharks' migration and feeding habits.

(© Independent News Service)

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