Woman punched shark to es­cape

Vo­cal op­po­nent of catch-and-kill pol­icy says she feels at­tack was a priv­i­lege

The New Zealand Herald - - NEWS -

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.

Elissa Sur­sara

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.”

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