Fatal shark attack at Gracetown

The injuries sustained by a 35-year-old surfer in this morning's shark attack were so severe that he died instantly, police say.

The Margaret River man was killed at Umbies break, just south of Left Handers Beach, near Gracetown, just after 9am.

See Rick Ardon's report from Gracetown tonight in Seven News at six

Margaret River Acting Sgt Norm Giocas said the man's close friends had been told of the tragedy but family members were still being located. The man's name would not be released until next of kin had been notified.

Acting Sgt Giocas said the situation was very distressing for the close-knit Margaret River surfing community.

It is believed the man is the father of two children.

The Department of Fisheries has issued an imminent threat order to capture the shark, understood to be a three-metre Great White.

Acting Sgt Giocas said police believed the shark "bounced off" the board of one surfer then attacked another.

A witness, who was surfing nearby at the time of the attack, said another surfer dragged the victim onto his board and pulled him from the water. St John Ambulance officers confirmed the man died at the scene.

At Left Handers this morning Sgt Craig Anderson would not comment on the identity of the victim.

"The injuries he received appear to be consistent with those that would be received in a shark attack," he said.

The man's yellow and green surfboard has been recovered from the water.

Another surfer, who was on the beach at the time of the attack, said the victim was missing his left arm and part of his right leg.

Two search and rescue helicopters landed on the beach. A police spokesman said due to the terrain in the area a helicopter was used to remove the body from the beach.

Department of Fisheries shark response unit spokesman Tony Cappelluti said a decision on whether or not the shark would be killed would not be made until it was captured.

“We have no advice about the size or species of shark,” he said. “We set what we call set lines and we generally set three when we have a situation like this.

“That’s designed to capture the shark and from there we will make assessments as to what we do.

“Part of the criteria is high-risk species. We will assess the situation as it evolves.”

One fisheries vessel is at the scene and another is expected to arrive about 6pm.

The Surf Life Saving WA helicopter today began daily patrols of the South West coast aimed at spotting hazards like sharks and rips.

The department also has shark detection equipment in place near Bunbury and Meelup.

Mr Cappelluti said the Government had put a lot of work into shark attack mitigation.

“We have just deployed another two (acoustic receivers) in the South West and there will be another one going in,” he said.

“At the moment we are doing everything we can to ensure the area is safe.

“People need to be using extreme caution in that are over the next few days, even if the beaches re-open.”

The Shire of Augusta-Margaret River and Dept of Fisheries have closed a number of local beaches including Umbies, to South Point and onto Huzzas, North Point and the main Gracetown beach.

A police spokesman said there were a large number of school leavers holidaying in the area.

“We have got some extra officers going down there to keep the crowds back from the scene,” he said.

The area has now been the site of three fatal shark attacks in the past 10 years. The last fatal shark attack at Gracetown was in August 2010.

This is the first fatal attack by a shark this year. There were five last year.

Surfer Bradley Smith was taken by a great white at a beach near the town in 2004, and another surfer, Nicholas Edwards, was killed by a shark at nearby South Point.

Today's attack comes just weeks after abalone diver Greg Pickering was bitten on the face and body by a 5m great white while diving off the coast of Esperance.

Alana Noakes, whose boyfriend Ben Linden was killed by a shark near Wedge Island last year, posted a message on Facebook this morning after she heard about the latest attack.

“Another man lost,” she wrote. “Thinking about his family and friends, remembering what we all went through. All I want to do is hug them.

“Life can be over so quickly, so make the most of your weekend with each other.”

Mr Linden, 24, was attacked by a 5m great white while he was surfing with a friend on July 14.

An air and sea search was launched but his body was never found.

Last month an inquest was told there was no doubt Mr Linden had been killed in a “catastrophic” shark attack.

The scene at Left Handers this morning. Pictures: Grace Millimaci/The West Australian

Anyone in the area who sees a shark should report it to Water Police on 9442 8600.