A Victorian fisherman has laughed off his colourful reaction to seeing a great white shark on Tuesday.
“Look at the size of that. Holy sh**. Oh my God. Holy f***,” he says in the clip published to Instagram.
Being circled by a shark would cause many Aussies to swear out of fear, but 38-year-old Reece Holwell actually had the opposite reaction. “My heart was racing just out of pure excitement,” he told Yahoo News Australia.
After Mr Holwell first spotted the apex predator off Bells Beach, his cousin and her boyfriend, who were on the boat with him, hoped he would try and hook it. But he shot the idea down, explaining that the species is endangered.
Despite often angling for sharks, this was the first time Mr Holwell had ever seen a great white during a fishing trip. As the predator continued circling the boat, his joy was clearly infectious, and his cousin dangerously stretched out her hand for a moment to show how close the creature was.
Older fishermen Mr Holwell knows, who have been on the water for 60 years, have never had "the fortune" of spotting a great white. “For a fisherman like me, seeing one of them is kind of like winning Tattslotto, it’s an almost once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," he said.
Placid great white encounter typical of species
Humane Society International shark expert Lawrence Chlebeck said Mr Holwell’s “chill” experience with the great white is actually a typical encounter.
“While the mistakes that a great white might make from time to time are blown out of proportion in media, 99,999 times out of 100,000 they're very discerning animals,” he said. They know what is prey and what is not and they're very intelligent.”
Although they are migratory, there are two distinct populations of great white sharks in Australia. According to the last estimate, which was made in 2018, the eastern population is thought to be 5500 individuals, and the southern/western total is assumed to be 1500 adults.
Despite global populations declining, in Australia, their endangered listing has helped great white shark numbers stabilise.
There has not been a fatal shark attack in Victoria for 30 years, but unnecessary risks should not be taken. People on the water should follow this government advice:
Don't swim or surf alone
Stay informed about sightings via www.emergency.vic.gov.au
Avoid areas where shark prey lives
Don't feed sharks
Watch for signs of unusual behaviour in fish
Shark sightings can be reported to authorities on Triple Zero (000) or to lifesavers.
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