Surf­ing con­test hit as riders tell world of shark fears

The Australian - - THE NATION - AN­DREW BURRELL

One of Aus­tralia’s big­gest sport­ing events, the Mar­garet River Pro surf­ing tour­na­ment, has been dealt a ma­jor blow af­ter two of the world’s best pro­fes­sional surfers said they felt un­safe train­ing and com­pet­ing there in the wake of two nearby shark at­tacks on Mon­day.

The Mar­garet River Pro, which at­tracts tens of thou­sands of spec­ta­tors and mil­lions of in­ter­na­tional view­ers each year, is spon­sored by the West Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment as a way of pro­mot­ing the state’s beaches and at­tract­ing tourists.

This year’s tour­na­ment has been rocked by the at­tacks on 37year-old Ale­jan­dro Travaglini and 41-year-old Ja­son Lon­grass at sep­a­rate beaches in Grace­town, about 15km away from the event site. Mr Travaglini, who re­mains in Royal Perth Hos­pi­tal, had been work­ing as a crew mem­ber at the Mar­garet River Pro.

The Depart­ment of Fish­eries has closed all beaches in Grace­town and yes­ter­day re­moved a whale car­cass from Lefthanders beach, the scene of one of the at­tacks on Mon­day.

Three sharks — be­lieved to be two tiger sharks and a great white — cir­cled the car­cass for about 30 min­utes as it was towed from Lefthanders to a boat ramp.

Brazil­ian surfer Gabriel Med­ina, the 2014 world cham­pion, told his six mil­lion fol­low­ers on In­sta­gram he did not feel safe in the wa­ter around Mar­garet River.

“Leav­ing my opin­ion be­fore it’s too late,” he said ahead of the ex­pected re­sump­tion of the tour­na­ment this morn­ing. An­other Brazil­ian, joint World Surf League rat­ings leader Italo Fer­reira, also voiced his con­cerns.

“Two shark at­tacks in less than 24 hours here in Aus­tralia, just a few kilo­me­tres from where the event is be­ing held,” the Brazil­ian surfer told his 200,000 fol­low­ers on In­sta­gram. “Is the safety of the ath­letes not the pri­or­ity? We’ve had plenty of alerts. Life is worth more than this. I hope this doesn’t hap­pen to any of us. I don’t feel com­fort­able train­ing and com­pet­ing un­der these cir­cum­stances.”

In re­sponse to the surfers’ con­cerns, the WSL said yes­ter­day it would con­tinue to as­sess the sit­u­a­tion. “We have ac­tioned our well-es­tab­lished safety pro­to­cols and are gath­er­ing all the lat­est in­for­ma­tion to de­ter­mine the next steps,” it said. “We will con­tinue to li­aise with all in­volved, most im­por­tantly the surfers. Their safety (is) para­mount,” the WSL said.

It also emerged yes­ter­day that the WA gov­ern­ment might bow to pres­sure to act on beach safety in the wake of the Grace­town at­tacks, re­veal­ing it could fol­low NSW in de­ploy­ing state-of-the art SMART (Shark Man­age­ment Alert in Real Time) drum­lines off the state’s beaches.

Deputy Premier Roger Cook warned that a trial of the non­lethal drum­lines would cost mil­lions and might be too ex­pen­sive for the cash-strapped La­bor gov­ern­ment. In the first sign the McGowan gov­ern­ment is pre­pared to move on shark mit­i­ga­tion be­yond its pol­icy of sub­si­dis­ing per­sonal de­ter­rent de­vices, he said the gov­ern­ment was in­ter­ested in see­ing the re­sults of the smart drum­line trial in NSW.

He said a trial in six lo­ca­tions in WA would cost about $10,000 a day. “It’s quite an at­trac­tive propo­si­tion from the point of view that it makes in­tu­itive sense that it would be an ef­fec­tive way to do it,” he told ABC ra­dio to­day. “It’s also a very ex­pen­sive one.” Fed­eral En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Josh Fry­den­berg said it was time for WA to act.

Shark at­tack sur­vivor Ale­jan­dro Travaglini with his son Indi, wife Tanya Hawthorne and daugh­ter Mali yes­ter­day

IN­STA­GRAM

Brazil’s Gabriel Med­ina told fol­low­ers of his shark fears

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