‘Commonplace’ warning sign missed in Perth’s fatal shark attack

A shark expert says a warning sign a few days ahead of the fatal Perth attack signalled the dangers lurking in the Swan River.

A leading shark expert says a fisherman’s horrifying haul five days before a teenage girl died in a shark attack in Perth’s Swan River was an indication that killers lurked beneath the water.

Stella Berry, 16, was fatally attacked by a bull shark while riding a jet ski in Fremantle on Saturday. It’s believed she had jumped into the water to swim with dolphins when she was mauled.

Less than a week earlier, a fisherman pulled up a half eaten stingray with three giant bites taken out of it. They’re believed to have been caused by a bull shark which are known to frequent the Swan River.

“The fact that sharks eat rays is quite commonplace,” Dr Leonardo Guida from the Australian Marine Conservation Society told Yahoo News Australia. “Bull sharks live in rivers and rays do sometimes enter the lower reaches of a river where it comes to the shore, so sharks eating rays isn't unusual. It does happen.”

16-year-old Stella Berry pictured left and right.
Stella Berry, 16, was killed in a shark attack in the Swan River in Perth on Saturday. Source: 7 News

Half-eaten stingray sparks calls for tougher fishing practices

In the wake of this “absolutely horrible” tragedy, Dr Guida says the Western Australian government must implement evidence-based solutions to reduce the risk of something like this tragic event happening again.

He says the incident with the stingray should encourage authorities to look into responsible fishing practices as a mitigation measure.

“It might be wise that certain fishing activities particularly for large fish don't occur in areas or near areas that are popular with bathers because ultimately we don't want to attract bigger fish to an area that's quite popular with swimmers,” the shark expert said.

The half-eaten stingray in Perth.
A fisherman got the shock of his life when he pulled up a half-eaten stingray from the Swan River. Source: Facebook

Bull shark must be ‘treated with respect’

As one of Australia’s deadliest species, alongside tiger sharks and white sharks, Dr Guida says bull sharks are the most aggressive and like any wild animal “should be treated with absolute respect.”

“Community education and awareness, and improving that is fundamental,” he said. “This includes making people aware of shark behaviours and how environmental conditions and changes in season and time of day affect them. Better information about how these sharks use our waterways can also inform our behaviours and the activities we undertake, and how best to mitigate the chance of a shark biting a person.”

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