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Shark cull demanded after 'unprecedented' fatal attacks in Australia

A man is killed Saturday from an apparent shark attack off the western coast of Australia. Msnbc.com's Al Stirrett reports.

There are calls for a shark cull in western Australia after what one expert called an "unprecedented" number of deadly attacks, local media reported Sunday.

A 13-feet-long great white shark has been blamed for the latest fatality – the fourth in seven months – involving a scuba diver early on Saturday.

Peter Kurmann, a 33-year-old businessman and father of two young sons, was diving about a mile off Stratham Beach, 140 miles south of Perth, Western Australia (WA) according to a report in The Australian. It said the victim’s brother saw a ‘dark shape’ in the water at the time of the tragedy.

Scuba diver killed in Australia shark attack

In October, a 32-year-old man from Texas, George Wainwright, was killed by a shark off Rottnest Island along the same stretch of coast.

Ian Stubbs, mayor of the local Busselton area, has suggested a cull, saying the attacks are affecting tourism, the newspaper said.

“I think there should be a culling program because it's gone too crazy,” he was quoted as saying. “How many more of these tragic deaths can we continue to have? It's far too many."

Senior shark research scientist Rory McAuley told news site Perth Now that the current spate of attacks was "unprecedented”.

"I'm not aware of any series of fatal shark attacks, this number, in such a short period of time anywhere in the world,'' Mr McAuley was quoted as saying.

"So we really can't tell what's behind that. Last year a large proportion of the global shark fatalities occurred in Western Australia.

"In other years we haven't even registered on the shark attack files statistics. So last year was particularly bad. This year has already started very tragically."

However, The Australian said the WA state government has ruled out a cull because of the difficulties in identifying the sharks responsible.

The Sydney Morning Herald quoted WA state premier Colin Barnett as saying: "I am not advocating culling at all but I think there may be some scope, depending on the results of the research project, to allow increased fishing of shark which used to happen and has been restricted for various reasons."

It isn’t clear why the number of attacks has risen so sharply, but authorities say there is no evidence shark numbers are increasing. Tina Thorne from the WA government's Shark Response Unit, told broadcaster ABC: "What we'd like to do is put some solid science behind some of those theories and prove them or disprove them.” 

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