Helen and Stephen Cain were on the coast about 50km from Kingston SE on March 14, when they noticed something flailing on the shore in the distance.
“We were going for a walk along the beach and we saw [something], way ahead of us, flapping in the water,” says Helen.
“We just thought it was a couple of seals playing, and as we got closer we though, no it’s too big, maybe it’s a dolphin. We continued walking and discovered it was [a] shark.
“It was having trouble, like it wanted to go swimming but it couldn’t. The water came in several times, deep enough for it to go out, but it seemed as if it couldn’t,” she says.
The couple only learned later the shark was a great white.
The couple considered trying to help the shark back into the water, but it’s size – approximately three-and-a-half metres – ruled it out.
“We were just fascinated with it, and I wished I could have helped it,” Helen said.
“I did get quite close to it but I was just very careful…[but] as my husband said to me, if we’d try to pull it by the tail and pull it back in, it very well could have turned around and bitten us.
“Its mouth was coming right back around to its tail. So, there was nothing we could do unfortunately. It eventually died.”
Shark researcher with Rodney Fox Shark Expeditions, Andrew Fox, says while sharks sometimes get stuck feeding in shallow water, they have been known to grow unwell, become disorientated and beach themselves.
“There is a tendency to point fingers at pollution and man-made problems, which probably contribute, but it tends to be parasitic in nature,” he said, citing cases where multiple sharks had beached due to what was believed to be an increase in bacteria in the area.
Fox said that while people had been able to help return small stranded sharks into deeper water: “You need to be aware that this is still a formidable, dangerous animal.”
“At the same time, the last thing it’s probably thinking [about] is biting anybody.”
Helen said that after the shark died, she and her husband left it and continued on their trip.
Two weeks later, she read a story about a dismembered shark near Kingston.
“There was a write up, a few weeks ago, saying the Fisheries department were questioning a couple of people about what had happened, because a couple of people had taken jaws,” she said.
Also known as a white shark or white pointer, great white sharks are a protected species under section 71 of the South Australian Fisheries Management Act 2007.
Individuals found possessing, taking, injuring or interfering with a shark can face a penalty of up to $100,000, or two years imprisonment.
Despite the potential consequences, Fox says shark jaws and teeth are tempting trophies for some people.
“Finding a shark on the beach, there could be an attraction to remove the jaw,” he said.
“It’s illegal to possess the jaw, on a technicality. However, on an ethical stance, if the shark has already died? But, then how long has the shark been dead for? It opens up a can of worms for catching sharks for their jaws.”
A PIRSA spokesperson says any interactions with great whites, including sightings, should be reported to Fishwatch on 1800 065 522.
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