Woman punched shark to escape
Vocal opponent of catch-and-kill policy says she feels attack was a privilege
Shark attacks invoke intense fear for most people — but for environmental activist Elissa Sursara, being bitten through her torso by one of the ocean killers made her feel privileged.
“I saw a flash of grey in the water and then I felt a bit of pressure on my torso — that’s when I realised I had been bitten,” the 26-year-old Australian told Queensland’s Sunday Mail.
“I knew it was a shark. As quick as I could I just thrashed, so I was punching what was biting me.”
The shark let go in seconds, Sursara said.
“I wrapped one arm around myself. I wasn’t sure what my injuries were and I wanted to try to hold myself together. I raised one hand and started yelling out.”
The size of her bite suggests it was a tiger shark or a small great white.
She believed she was lucky because it had been a “clean” bite.
Ms Sursara, who is in the running to be one of National Geographic’s global emerging explorers for 2015, has spoken out about her experience off the north Queensland coast last September after the scrapping of a controversial catchand-kill shark policy by the Western Australian Government.
I think they’re amazing . . . not many people can say
they have had an encounter like that.
The policy, which was tried out over a 13-week period beginning in January, meant sharks larger than 3m were caught and killed by commercial fishers monitoring two zones in popular swimming areas off Perth and South West beaches.
Sursara, who was a vocal opponent of the policy, said her attack encounter made her more determined to fight for the ocean dwellers’ plight.
“I think they’re amazing. I feel privileged to have had such an encounter. Not many people can say they have had an encounter like that.”
The attack, which left her with injuries requiring a week-long stay in hospital, had made her “more obsessed with sharks than ever”.
Sursara said she knew that by being in the water early in the morning she was disobeying safe bathing procedures. She had some handy advice for ocean swimmers should they come under attack: “Punch the shark in the eyes or the nose because they let go immediately.”