Posted by: letsharkslive | January 3, 2010

Unfortunate reporting and then the truth…

A recent incident on surf website  Surfers Village claimed in it’s report that a teenager had lost an arm and leg in a shark attack in Mozambique. However as the full story emerged, the facts proved to be not quite as alarming, and as the report below states, the young man at the brunt of the action had some wise words to say about sharks. Whilst the internet allows for free and instant reporting, it also allows for shoddy and innacurate work to see the light of day.

Original Report Here.

Shark attack – the family speaks
30 December 2009 – 09:02
By Olivia ‘OJ’ Symcox
The family of Peter James Fraser sets the record straight.

The family and girlfriend of shark attack victim Peter James Fraser
have set the record straight regarding the facts about the shark
attack which occurred in Ponta do Oura last week on Tuesday 22
December. Contrary to reports circulating in local and Mozambiquan
print and broadcast media, Fraser did not lose any limbs, although he
did sustain 6 injuries of varying severity from his encounter with the
2-metre shark, which has been tentatively identified as a juvenile
Tiger shark.

Fraser, 27, and his girlfriend Nicolene Latsky, both from Rustenburg,
were holidaying in the Mozambiquan tourist hotspot of Ponta Do Oura.
At approximately 16h30 on the day of the attack, Fraser was swimming
in the bay and caught a wave to shore. As he was exiting the shallow
murky water, he felt something bump his leg. Thinking it was his
girlfriend playing the fool, he thought nothing of it. However, the
inquisitive shark came back at him, biting him on the right knee and
causing him to fall to his knees in the half a metre of water.

The shark came at him again from his right hand side, biting him
beneath the right shoulder and again on his back on the right hand
side. The worst of his injuries were sustained when he fended the
shark off with both his hands. The shark bit down on his hands,
resulting in deep cuts across all of his knuckles on his left hand,
almost severing through three tendons on the top of his fingers. His
right hand sustained less severe lacerations. Peter then exited the
water unassisted, where he was treated by a female paramedic who was
on holiday at the same location.

Latsky said that “I have never had a fright like that in my life!”
According to Latsky, “the attack really took us by surprise because
Peter was in such shallow water, the shark’s back and dorsal fin were
completely out of the water”. She also said that “there were many
other bathers around, there was even a man with a lilo right next to
Pete, with another 100-150 people swimming in the bay. In the minutes
before the attack, we saw small fish jumping out the water quite near
to us but did not consider that it was because a shark was near”. Soon
after the attack, it was heard that a group of divers had begun to
warn other bathers that they had witnessed a shark chasing a small
school of fish into the shallows of the bay.

Latsky said that “we were lucky to find someone in Ponta Do Oura who
owned a helicopter, and he flew us directly to the border. Pete was
then transported by ambulance to the local Manguzi hospital in Kosi
Bay where he was stabilised. From there he travelled by ambulance to
Ngwelezana Hospital in Empangeni. Finally, from there he travelled
once again by ambulance to The Bay Hospital in Richards Bay where he
was on a drip with antibiotics for 4 days to prevent infection. We are
so grateful to the pilot for taking Pete across the border as it was a
very serious situation with Pete losing a lot of blood. Once at the
Empangeni hospital we had quite a lengthy wait before Pete could get
into theatre, but once he was in there the doctors did a fantastic job
during the four and a half hour surgery”. Peter was release from
hospital yesterday (28 December), and flew back to Gauteng from
Richards Bay.

Fraser, who is said to be in good spirits despite being in quite some
pain, will require at least one more operation to reattach the
partially severed tendons in his left hand. The mounting medical bills
will be a concern for Peter, who has recently started a small supply
business, and whose medical aid expired only three months ago. He has
already incurred costs in the region of R30 000 that he is aware of,
and still has no idea of what the helicopter costs will be. It is
estimated that he will probably incur another R20 000 in aftercare and
rehabilitation costs, and if additional surgery is required to the
tendons and or any skin grafts this could be substantially higher.

Despite the attack, Latsky says Fraser “does not blame the shark in
any way. When we swim in the ocean, we are in their territory.” Fraser
is an outdoor enthusiast who loves quad biking, plays hockey socially,
enjoys fishing and goes to Mozambique about 2 or 3 times a year.

Marine conservationist and shark expert Mark Addison said that “it is
very unusual for a shark to go into a shallow bay with the added
deterrent of high mechanised watersport usage without some kind of
olfactory draw or other predatory related stimulus – in this case,
possibly the fish it was reported to have been chasing assisted by the
high tide which would have allowed the shark to swim over the
extensive sand bank network in the bay. It is also a common
misperception that sharks only respond to olfactory stimulus and this
only because they are looking for a meal. The reality is that they
don’t, and in many cases are curious and this alone could draw them to
an area or to an object, which they would then subject to further
scrutiny – they do this by biting as they have no hands to determine
the objects substance or in some cases suitability for a meal. The net
result is that the shark does not feed 24/7/365. Bear in mind that a
shark eats approximately 10% of its body weight per week, add to this
the fact that any energy aquisition (i.e. food) they don’t use
immediately gets stored in the liver for another day and this makes
sharks the camels of the sea – a very necessary adaptation if you are
going to have to cover vast tracts of ocean for your next meal.

Back to the case in point – at Ponta, for example, my experience over
the last twenty years of operating in the area is that in the case of
the resident dolphin pod and transitory whale sharks, they tend to
give the bay a wider berth during these periods of heightened boating
and watersport activity. At Quarter mile reef in Sodwana, on the other
hand, the arrival of the pregnant ragged tooth sharks coincides with
the same heightened holiday boating traffic and in this case the
sharks have very little choice but to put up with boats whizzing over
their heads, as the reef is so vital to their gestation period in
these warmer shallower waters where they are by and large able to
avoid the pelagic predators. Basically, there is no one size fits all
in terms of our searching for answers as to why this bite event
happened in the first place. Since a bite such as this, which happened
in shallow water, near the shore and around noisy boating activity, is
really out of character we need to look at the potential reasons for
this” said Addison.

Addison said that factors, other than natural ones such as chasing
fish (a favoured food source of juvenile tigers) which may have
contributed to the shark being in the bay, include “the fact that as a
result of all of rock and surf fishing being done, there is between
100-200kg’s of sardines being thrown into the bay each day, a real
treat for sharks who would not normally be exposed to the enticing
natural smell of sardines at this time of the year in this area. One
needs to also consider the poor waste management, with septic tanks
leaching raw sewerage into the bay. These olfactory corridors being
created in the bay are conducive to attracting sharks – even if only
on the rare occasion, as was the case this time”. There are many
examples around the world where abattoirs and sewage plants have
caused sharks to be drawn to an area and then into conflict with water
users by biting them. Once the source of olfaction or waste discharge
was removed the bites ceased.

Addison also said that “if the shark in question is indeed a Tiger,
they are by nature patient yet determined sharks and once they have
decided on a meal are pretty focused on achieving their goal. I have
spent nearly a thousand hours a year in the water with tigers over
more than a decade using primarily sardines as bait and then also
having come across tigers scavenging on dead turtles and whales – none
of these events has resulted in the slightest aggression from this
particular species towards myself or fellow divers and snorkellers,
but I have often seen or experienced the exploratory and inquistive
nature of these sharks when they have mouthed a camera or floating
buoy. These outcomes proved to be harmless when directed at an
aluminium housing or inch thick moulded plastic buoy but would have
been very different if these investigations had been focussed on our
puny bodies – but they weren’t.”

According to Addison, “the last thing we want to happen here is for
sharks to get the bad reputation when better management of a marine
park should be the lesson learned. The lesson here is that authorities
need to implement areas of segregated and wise use, so that the
interaction between humans and the ocean can be managed more
effectively. Pete was a victim of circumstance and I wish him a speedy
and full recovery”.

Bear in mind that this is the second bite at Ponta in over twenty
years of post war beach and marine tourism, and for more than half a
century if you take the pre-war beach tourism to the area into
account. This is a remarkable statistic when you consider that there
are not and have never been shark nets on the entire Mozambican coast
or within 250km of Ponta to the south.

Marine photographer and author Thomas Peschak said that he would
“substitute the term ‘shark attack’ for ‘shark bite’, we don’t call it
dog attack, monkey attack or snake attack, so why call it a shark
attack”. Peschak, who is the Chief Photographer for the Save our Seas
Foundation, said that “in the murky water the shark would not have
been able to rely on its excellent eyesight, and the turbulent water
of the surf zone could have further compromised its normally acute
other senses. Just like people, sharks can and do make mistakes and it
appears that this juvenile, and therefore perhaps inexperienced tiger
shark, mistook the bather for something it would normally prey on such
as a ray or a sea turtle.”

Julie Anderson, Founder of Shark Angels, said that in terms of risk,
“you are more likely to be killed in a hunting accident, lightening
strike or sand pit than a shark. In 2007, one person world-wide was
killed by a shark bite. During that same period, 793 people died due
to bicycle accidents and 49 died due to dog bites”. Commenting on the
sensationalised reporting of this story prior to this report, Anderson
said that “tabloid-style reporting reinforces our misguided and
irrational fears of sharks, providing a very real example that our
concerns are valid. This in turn fuels the biggest issue faced in
shark conservation: the public’s apathy or even loathing towards
sharks. It is incredibly irresponsible and undoubtedly highly damaging
to the conservation of a highly threatened animal”.

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