Surfer beats back shark and calls for culling

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 September, 2005, 12:00am

Man kicked and punched great white in its gills as his son and daughter watched

An Australian surfer described how he fought off a 4-metre great white shark by desperately punching and kicking it in the gills.

Lobster fisherman Jake Heron, 40, yesterday also said it was time to start culling great whites.

He was surfing off the coast of South Australia when the shark surfaced and attacked him, biting his surfboard in two. Deep puncture wounds to his arm and leg required 60 stitches.

The attack on Sunday, about 40 metres from shore, was witnessed by his son, six, and his daughter, two.

'I just looked around and saw a big black body ... and then I felt the bite,' Mr Heron said from his hospital bed. 'With the next bite it grabbed my board and as it did that I was just punching and kicking it.'

He managed to grab one half of his mangled surfboard and was swept into shore by a wave, all the time fearing the shark would return. He used his shredded wetsuit to compress his wounds.

The attack happened at Fishery Bay, 30km from Port Lincoln, west of Adelaide as Mr Heron was surfing with a friend, Craig Matena. 'He was freaking out, yelling for help,' Mr Matena, 38, said. 'No one saw the shark come up to him - it knocked him off the board. It pulled him under because the leg rope was attached to him. He kicked and punched the shark, I think in the gills.

'Then a wave came through and washed him onto the rocks. He would not have been able to outswim the shark.'

Mr Heron called for great whites to be culled. 'They kill our national emblem [kangaroos] ... it's time to keep shark numbers down in Port Lincoln.'

The attack came less than two weeks after a marine biologist was killed by a great white shark while diving off a beach in Adelaide.

South Australia is a hot spot for great white sharks. Five people have been killed in such attacks since 2000. Some surfers have accused the region's burgeoning tuna-farming industry of luring sharks in greater numbers.

Tuna are reared in underwater pens, with the industry based in Port Lincoln, where underwater scenes of real great whites featured in the 1975 film Jaws. But tuna fishermen yesterday rejected the link.

'Great whites have always been in this area during winter and that's a reality,' said Brian Jeffries, chairman of the Tuna Boat Owners' Association. 'That was the case 100 years ago, 50 years ago and well before tuna farming,' he said.