Austrian scuba diver killed by a shark after disappearing in the waters off South Africa

The 68-year-old man was diving with a group in Protea Banks when he was killed by a shark. Photo / 123rf
The 68-year-old man was diving with a group in Protea Banks when he was killed by a shark. Photo / 123rf

An Austrian scuba diver who went missing off the coast of South Africa was killed by a shark, according to sea rescuers.

The 68-year-old man, who has yet to be formally identified, was diving with a group in Protea Banks in Durban, in the east of the country.

The National Sea Rescue Institute revealed he was with a charter who went out into the water at around 1.45pm on Wednesday, the Daily Mail reports.

His fellow divers said that he disappeared as the rest of the group made their way to the surface.

An NSRI spokesman said: “According to fellow divers on a charter scuba dive they had been surfacing when the man had disappeared.

“During the search‚ the remains of the body of the man‚ believed to have been bitten by a shark‚ were located by crew of a private fishing boat.

“The remains of the body were recovered from the water onto a sea rescue craft and brought to shore.

“NSRI Convey sincerest condolences to the family of a 68 year old Austrian man who died yesterday at Protea Banks, South Coast Kwa-Zulu Natal.”

Initially, the NSRI said the man was German but they today revealed that he was in fact Austrian and thanked both the Austrian and German Consulates who assisted.

Protea Banks is a reef just 6.4km off the South African coast and attracts thousands of scuba divers each year.

Diving enthusiasts typically travel to the area because of the large number of tiger and bull sharks which live there.

Daily Mail

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New research finds human-shark interactions can take place without long-term effects on the sharks.

A multimillion-dollar global industry exists in response to scuba divers’ interest in getting face time with the ocean predators. Options include cage diving with white sharks in South Africa and Guadeloupe Island; shark feeding in the Bahamas, Mexico, or Fiji; and diving with huge schools of hammerheads in Cocos Island and Galapagos.

But as most scuba divers know—and previous studies have shown—sharks more commonly swim away from people than toward them. Does that avoidance behavior persist after the divers leave? Do sharks steer clear of sites that are frequented by divers?

“Unfortunately, human impacts on shark populations are ubiquitous on our planet,” says lead author Darcy Bradley, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Santa Barbara’s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management. “That makes it difficult to separate shark behavioral changes due to scuba diving from behavioral changes caused by other human activities like fishing.”

The researchers went to Palmyra, a remote atoll in the central Pacific Ocean, where shark populations are healthy, fishing is not allowed, and divers rarely enter the majority of its near pristine underwater world. However, Palmyra is home to a small scientific research station, where researchers dive in a handful of locations. This made the atoll an ideal site for studying whether and how shark abundance and behavior differ between locations where diving is more common and those where it is not.

As reported in the Marine Ecology Progress Series, the researchers used baited remote underwater video systems—cameras lowered to the ocean floor with a small amount of bait—to survey sharks and other predators from the surrounding reef.

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“After reviewing 80 hours of underwater footage taken from video surveys conducted in 2015—14 years after Palmyra was established as a wildlife refuge and scientific diving activities began—we found that shark abundance and shark behavior were the same at sites with and without a long history of scuba diving,” says coauthor Jennifer Caselle, a research biologist at UC Santa Barbara’s Marine Science Institute.

“Our results suggest that humans can interact with reef sharks without long-term behavioral impacts,” Bradley says. “That’s good news. It means that well-regulated shark diving tourism doesn’t necessarily undermine shark conservation goals.”

Researchers from Florida International University also contributed to the work.

Source: UC Santa Barbara


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