A STRING of shark attacks in Western Australia has reignited the debate over whether great white sharks should be a protected species.
Twenty-four-year-old Ben Linden was mauled to death while surfing off Wedge Island, north of Perth, on Saturday.
The coastal patrol is still searching for his remains and the shark responsible.
The attack, which was watched by Ben's horrified friends, is the fifth in Western Australia in less than 12 months.
The tragedy prompted Fisheries Minister Norman Moore to write to the Federal Government seeking clarification on great white sharks being classified as protected.
The sharks were made a protected species more than a decade ago after their population, mostly found in the East Coast-New Zealand and Western Australia-South Australia areas, declined rapidly.
"It is absolutely tragic that in just 10 months, five people have lost their lives to great white sharks," Mr Moore said.
"Each attack has resulted in severe or sustained injuries with no chance of survival for the victim."
Mr Moore said an accurate estimate of shark populations around Australia was missing and called on the Federal Government to share any relevant information.
"We need to know if there has been any update on the status of the sharks and the sustainability level at which the Federal Government will lift protection," he said.
"I would also like to know if the commonwealth is considering revising any policy."
Southern Cross University marine science senior lecturer Dr Danny Bucher said not enough time had passed to show whether shark populations had increased.
Shark mauls surfer to death
THE coastal patrol is scouring the Western Australian coastline near Perth for the shark responsible for mauling a surfer to death on the weekend.
A 24 year old was killed on Saturday morning while surfing at Wedge Island, north of Perth.
The Western Australian Department of Fisheries said the surfer was taken by what appeared to be a white shark while surfing 200 metres off an isolated beach.
A jet ski rider told News Limited he tried to save the surfer but the shark almost knocked him off his craft.
"I reached to grab the body and the shark came at me on the jet ski and tried to knock me off and I did another loop and when I came back to the body the shark took it," he said.
A massive search was conducted over the weekend for the shark and the surfer's remains.
Shark capture lines were placed in the ocean immediately following the attack and Fisheries Minister Norman Moore ordered the shark be killed if caught.
Shark Response Unit spokesperson Tony Capillitii said on Saturday there had been no further sightings of the shark since the attack.
"When last seen the shark was heading offshore but we have placed baited lines in the water near the attack site in an attempt to catch the shark should it return to the location or pose a threat in the area," he said.
"Eyewitnesses at the location told police they saw the shark swimming out to deeper water after the incident."
The shark attack is the fifth in Western Australia in under a year.
Last month a surf ski paddler was rescued after his surf ski was attacked by a shark at Mullaloo Beach.
In March, a diver was mauled to death off the Western Australian south-west coast and in September a body boarder was killed.
A scuba diver died after being attacked by a shark off Rottnest Island last October and a swimmer also disappeared in the same month while swimming at Cottesloe Beach.