Three fatal shark attacks in three years won't stop Esperance residents moving forward

© Provided by ABC NEWS Karen Milligan returns to the water one year after her husband’s death.  (ABC News: Emily Smith)

Karen Milligan could have easily turned her back on the ocean, but earlier this year she made the extraordinary decision to don her dive gear once again.

It marked a brave return to the place where Gary Johnson, her husband and dive buddy, was killed on January 5, 2020.

On the anniversary of his death, she was determined to celebrate their shared love of the ocean by placing a memorial — a dive tank filled with messages from family and friends — on the sea floor.

I thought it was a whale tail

Ms Milligan spent 15 years exploring the ocean around Esperance with Mr Johnson; the president of the Esperance Dive Club who she described as a “six-foot-four water baby” who was passionate about protecting the ocean.

“He was the kindest, gentlest, most caring person I have met,” she said.

Despite all that time underwater, they never saw a white shark until January 5, 2020.

Ms Milligan remembered spotting an enormous tail ahead of her and, for one cruel moment, thinking she was in for a wonderful experience.

“I thought it was a whale tail,” she said.

“I was looking at this like a David Attenborough moment — it took about two nanoseconds to realise that it wasn’t.”

It was a white shark — one which experts later estimated to be up to 6 metres long — and it was attacking her husband.

“I tried to hit the shark first of all on the tail. Then I decided to swim along to its nose and hit it on the nose,” Ms Milligan said.

“But in this surreal moment, as I was swimming halfway along the shark, it just disappeared.

“Never once when I was approaching the shark underwater, trying to hit it, did I have any personal fear.

“Mainly because I think we had this understanding of what sharks are doing in that instance and I held onto that belief — the shark was just doing what sharks do.”

Despite her grief, the belief that it was a “very natural” event helped Ms Milligan make sense of the tragedy.

But Mr Johnson’s death sent shockwaves throughout the town, particularly because, by the end of 2020, three people had been killed by sharks in three years off the Esperance coast.

The other attacks both happened at Kelp Beds, a surf break a short beach-drive away from town.

It’s our life

Mitch Capelli is an Esperance-born-and-raised surfer who lives and breathes the ocean, but in recent years has become increasingly rattled by the way sharks are changing his community.

“I’ve been in the water for close to 20 years and I personally haven’t seen anywhere near as many sharks as I have in the last five years in particular,” he said.

In the wake of teenage surfer Laeticia Brouwer’s death in 2017, he set up the Esperance Ocean Safety and Support Group.

It aimed to come up with practical solutions to protect people from sharks, such as distributing trauma kits to ensure people had tourniquets after an attack.

Mr Capelli believes this offers a better approach than “staying out of the water” or “getting another hobby”, advice that he did not believe offered a permanent solution.

“Not when it’s everything you know, everything that your life revolves around.

“The ocean is bigger than that to us. It’s our life.”

But following the tragedies some lifelong surfers avoided the water near Esperance.

Mr Capelli said this had left many frustrated, unsure of what to do with themselves and struggling with their mental health.

He feared there would also be negative repercussions for the tourism industry which in turn would hurt the local economy and its future prospects.

“I already avoid Esperance at certain times of the year just because of what we’re seeing,” he said.

“A lot of hard-core surfers that I thought would never get out of the water aren’t surfing [here] and it’s really sad to see.”

While some surfers have returned to the water in the year since the last attack, others have not.

Esperance resident Pete McMahon had been surfing for 50 years, 30 of them at Kelp Beds.

But he was on the beach on October 9, 2020 when local man Andrew Sharpe was attacked and killed by a white shark.

Mr McMahon has not paddled out from an Esperance beach since.

“I guess people used to say, ‘You got more chance of being run over by a car’, but I don’t know anyone who’s been run over by a car,” he said.

Towards the end of last year a rally was organised at Esperance’s West Beach calling for more government action in response to sharks.

But shark policy is a political powder keg in Western Australia.

Sharks policy highly divisive

Protests erupted from Perth to Sydney when the former Liberal government sanctioned the killing of large tiger, bull and white sharks in 2014.

When Mark McGowan became Premier in 2017, he championed non-lethal shark management options.

His government has provided rebates on shark deterrent devices, trialled the use of non-lethal drumlines and set up warning systems.

Following the Esperance shark attacks, one of the key measures the government highlighted was its shark tagging program.

In the past four years, Esperance has proven one of the best places in the state for tagging white sharks, with 41 tagged off its coast, more than half of the 75 statewide total.

Peter Godfrey, statewide operations manager for WA Fisheries, said this was because the region’s annual seal pupping season attracted sharks and made them easier to catch and tag.

But Mr Capelli said he believed in terms of shark attack prevention, many of these measures amounted to “more of a band-aid than an actual solution”.

He pointed to policies the Ocean Safety and Support Group wanted to see adopted; the first being the use of non-lethal drumlines to catch, tag and relocate sharks near popular beaches.

This had some precedent, he said, given WA Fisheries dropped a drumline and relocated a 5.3-metre shark sighted at Cottesloe Beach near Perth last December.

But Mr Godfrey said Fisheries did not have the resources to commit to this as an attack-prevention strategy.

The Ocean Safety and Support Group also believed that after a shark attack, a non-lethal drumline should be rolled out to try and catch the animal involved.

Mr Capelli said if a shark closely fitting the description was caught, then it should be “humanely euthanased, according to Fisheries protocol”.

Mr Capelli said his group believed euthanasing sharks that attack would help protect people, reduce the danger to first responders and recovery divers, help recover coronial evidence and provide an opportunity for scientific research.

But he stressed it should not be interpreted as a call for a shark cull.

“That’s all we’re about, that balanced approach, offering solution-based mitigation.”

Group launches own research effort

In the long term, many believe the best way to prevent shark attacks will be to learn more about them.

In 2019, the Ocean Safety and Support Group launched a research project to learn more about sharks in the area.

David Swan, a local veterinarian and the group’s spokesperson, acknowledged that social media now meant people were more aware of shark sightings, which could amplify their concerns.

But after speaking with abalone divers, commercial divers and those who had spent a lifetime in the ocean, he believed more sharks were being sighted in the region.

“Although, again, the researchers say, ‘We don’t have evidence of that’, but we know that they are,” he said.

Mr Godfrey also said it was hoped the government’s tagging data would be used to study shark movements and behaviour.

‘We can’t guarantee 100pc safety’

On the anniversary of Mr Johnson’s death, after completing her scuba dive and meeting with friends and family at a local brewery, Ms Milligan had one more piece of business to attend to: launching the Gary Johnson Foundation.

She hoped the local organisation would preserve his legacy in striving to protect the ocean and its biodiversity at a community level.

She said its first priority was to see a marine park established in the waters of the Recherche Archipelago off Esperance, a plan the WA government also has its sights on and which was Mr Johnson’s “great dream”.

But it also takes a view on sharks, with a discussion paper on the foundation’s website warning against short-term, unscientific strategies.

“Any lethal approach to shark mitigation would be completely unacceptable. It’s known not to work,” Ms Milligan said.

While she and her daughter, Hannah, acknowledged the fear and trauma felt across the community, they believed it was important to keep it in perspective.

“I think it is an inherently traumatic event for everyone in this community when someone dies in the ocean. Everyone in Esperance has a really profound relationship with the ocean,” Hannah Milligan said.

“I think for some people in the community it’s created a real fear and a real sadness as a consequence — I think because it’s fundamentally changed their relationship with the ocean.

“But the thing I hope to see at the forefront of any strategy that’s adopted is an evidence-based approach, and that means trialling some new strategies that we haven’t seen before but also avoiding revisiting strategies that are dated and we know don’t work; for example, shark culling.”

Even though opinions about how to manage sharks differed, Ms Milligan was hopeful the community would come together on the issue.

“When you’re talking to people, be they commercial fishers, rec fishers, surfers, divers, swimmers — they all want the same thing. They would like human interaction with the ocean to be safe,” she said.

“But we can’t guarantee 100 per cent safety and I think people have to understand that too.

“And we wouldn’t really want 100 per cent safety, I don’t think. Part of the glamour of the ocean is that it throws up something different every time you get in it.

“So I think there’s a lot of common territory. They want the same thing. It’s just how to achieve the same thing.”

Internet Explorer Channel Network
News Related

OTHER NEWS

Lego fans will soon be able to build this house from the Home Alone movies – and recreate classic scenes

LEGO fans can soon build this house from the Home Alone movies. The 3,955-piece set was designed by Lego fan Alex Storozhuk, 28, and has familiar details of the McCallister ... Read more »

Westfield Stratford evacuated following reports of a fire as shoppers flee

SHOPPERS have been evacuated from Westfield following reports of a fire. The shopping centre in East London was emptied just under an hour ago after an alarm sounded. Westfield has ... Read more »

Red Bulls hold off Crew to extend unbeaten streak to eight games

Fabio battles the Crew’s Jonathan Mensah for the ball during the Red Bulls’ 2-1 victory. AP COLUMBUS, Ohio — Sean Nealis scored in the 87nd minute for his first MLS ... Read more »

Hypocrite Jihad preacher Anjem Choudary slams social media platforms for not protecting him from death threats

HATE cleric Anjem Choudary has blasted social media firms for not protecting him from death threats — after years cheerleading for jihad. He has inspired dozens of convicted terrorists and ... Read more »

Customers mock supermarkets using cutouts of fruit & veg to hide empty shelves

BEMUSED shoppers have ridiculed supermarkets for using cardboard fruit and veg cutouts to cover up empty shelves amid the food supply crisis. Workers at stores including Tesco and Sainsbury's have ... Read more »

Jacqueline Fernandez Denies Dating Sukesh Chandrashekhar, Calls Reports 'Slanderous'

© Provided by News18 Actress Jacqueline Fernandez has found herself embroiled in controversy after being summoned by the Enforcement Directorate in relation to a money laundering case involving Sukesh Chandrashekhar. ... Read more »

Will Alec Baldwin face charges? Legal experts say massive civil suit is a virtual certainty, but that any criminal prosecution would likely focus on whoever prepared prop gun

Legal experts tell DailyMail.com lawsuits naming Baldwin are a virtual certaintyIn addition to acting, he was producer on film where cinematographer was killedBut any criminal charges are more likely to center on whoever prepped prop gunProsecutors would have to prove gross negligence in loading the weapon Murder charges are unlikely unless there was an intentional act behind the deathBut manslaughter does not require intent to kill, only criminal negligence  Read more »

Ex-Labour MP Frank Field announces he is terminally ill as he backs controversial plans to allow assisted dying

A FORMER Labour MP has backed controversial plans to let terminal patients die – by announcing he's dying himself. Lord Frank Field, 79, revealed he's spent time in a hospice ... Read more »

Could wages for bar and waiting staff hit $50 an hour? Shortage of workers in hospitality industry is set to create a pay bonanza

Hospitality venues offering workers up to $45 an hour to work post-lockdownDesperate managers forced to entice staff with flexible hours and high pay rateComes as eager punters in Melbourne are finally freed from 262 day lockdown Read more »

Yeh Hai Mohabbatein Actor Shireen Mirza Marries Hasan Sartaj in Jaipur- See Pics From Royal Wedding

© Kritika Vaid | India.com Entertainment Desk Yeh Hai Mohabbatein Actor Shireen Mirza Marries Businessman Hasan Sartaj in Jaipur- See Pics From Royal Wedding Jaipur: Yeh Hai Mohabbatein actress Shireen ... Read more »

Infizierten sich EVZ-Spieler mit neuer Corona-Variante?

Der Zuger Kantonsarzt Rudolf Hauri will abklären, ob eine Mutation hinter dem Ausbruch beim Zuger Hockeyteam steckt. Der Zuger Kantonsarzt Rudolf Hauri will abklären, ob eine Mutation hinter dem Ausbruch ... Read more »

Real-life Mowgli who lived in jungle to escape cruel bullies dons suit as he heads off to school

THE real-life ‘Mowgli’ who grew up in a Rwandan jungle to escape cruel bullies has transformed his life and now wears a suit to go to school. Zanziman Ellie gained ... Read more »

Former elite swim coach, 78, accused of child abuse has his first court appearance delayed due to health issues

Former elite swim coach John Reginald Wright arrested in WA this weekHe is accused of sexual abusing Queensland boys he coached in the 1980sWright was extradited to face court in Queensland and appears on Monday  Read more »

Derby d'Italia: Inter und Juve unter Druck

© KEYSTONE/EPA ANSA/ALESSANDRO DI MARCO Am Sonntag um 20.45 Uhr spielen in der Serie A Meister Inter Mailand und das taumelnde Juventus Turin gegeneinander. In Italien ist es mehr als ... Read more »

I gave birth to world-record NINE babies after conceiving naturally – my belly weighed 30kg and I use 100 nappies a day

A MUM who gave birth to NINE babies has revealed that she gets through 100 nappies a day as she copes with their care. Halima Cisse, from Mail, completed her ... Read more »

Premier's house under police guard after major incident saw him rushed home from wedding – as security is stepped up amid threats from anti-vaxx opponents

WA Premier Mark McGowan rushed from a wedding by security on Saturday Mr McGowan at a reception in Perth's north and was whisked back to his home There was reportedly a security breach at the Premier's Rockingham address He recently announced Covid vaccine mandates for workers sparking backlash   Read more »

Christina Hendricks and Christian Siriano at Savannah Film Festival

© Provided by Daily Mail MailOnline logo They were in Savannah the night before to inaugurate a new fashion-focused museum exhibit. And Christina Hendricks and Christian Siriano extended their trip ... Read more »

Lottery results and numbers: Lotto and Thunderball draw tonight, October 23, 2021

THE NATIONAL Lottery results are in and it's time to find out who has won a life-changing amount of money tonight (October 23, 2021). Could tonight's jackpot of £7.3million see ... Read more »

Luxury resort with cocktail bars, private cabanas and water features to be built in Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open to help boost tourism

Luxury beach house will be built in Melbourne Park ahead of Australian Open'AO Beach House' features cocktail bars, yoga, tennis court & private cabana'sAustralian Open Tournament Director Craig Tiley plans to welcome back crowdsHopes grand slam will recover Melbourne & Victoria economy post-lockdown Read more »

Devastated family-of-five left homeless after horror blaze rips through home leaving them with nothing

A DESPERATE family of five has been left with nothing after a late-night fire destroyed their home. Kabir Ahammed, who lives in Swansea with his 68-year-old mother, his wife and ... Read more »

Jamie Laing: 'Fame is nonsense, you can't do anything with it'

Jamie Laing attending the National Television Awards 2021 (Photo by Ian West/PA Images via Getty Images) Yahoo Entertainment's editors are committed to independently selecting wonderful products at great prices for ... Read more »

Taliban ‘forcibly evicting' Hazaras and opponents in Afghanistan

Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock Thousands of people have been forced from their homes and land by Taliban officials in the north and south of Afghanistan, in what amounted to collective punishment, illegal ... Read more »

Annastacia Palaszczuk sends a chilling warning to anti-vaxxers with a photo of a watch face as her state prepares to open its borders

Queensland premier has warned anti-vaxxers they need to be jabbed ASAPComes as borders will finally be re-open by October 31 in the Sunshine StateCurrent figures show 60 per cent of Queensland population are fully vaccinated Read more »

Australian TV star and former Channel Seven presenter reveals he's facing HOMELESSNESS - amid his heartbreaking cancer battle

One of Australia’s most popular broadcasters is now facing homelessness amid a construction nightmare on his home. Mike Higgins, who was the face of Channel 7’s nightly news in Queensland from ... Read more »

HANGRY daughter, 20, admits to arson after setting fire to her father's house in a rage after he refused to buy her food and told her to go down the shops

Farha Bushra set fire to her father's home after he refused to get food for her20-year-old set tissue alight in a cardboard box that quickly got out of controlThe fire spread across the property before firefighters arrived to tackle blazeBushra was given an 18-month community order and a £1,000 fine Read more »

'It's like if Citibank owned the NY Stock Exchange': Google takes up to 42% cut from online ads - FOUR times as much as its rivals, according to bombshell lawsuit exposing scale of its monopoly

Google takes 22-42% of all online ad spending they facilitate on behalf of advertisers and publishers, newly unredacted lawsuit in NY federal court revealsThat's up to four times as much as rivalsThe search giant also makes it so that it wins a massive 80% of auctions hosted on its own exchange, the filing claims The lawsuit shines a light on the massive scale of Google's alleged monopoly over online adsGoogle generates hundreds of billions of dollars of revenue a year by selling ads that appear along with its search results  Google concedes in the lawsuit that 'an electronic exchange such as its own should not normally be able to extract such high fees in the market'The company also admitted, 'An exchange shouldn't be an immensely profitable business,' per the lawsuitGoogle has disputed the charges and called the lawsuit flawed, saying it collects lower fees for ads than the industry average  Read more »

Spike in fear stalking so many women: Scores say they have been injected with drugs in clubs and bars, spiking victim SIAN BOYLE went back to campus to investigate... and her findings are deeply disturbing

The last things I remember are the bright overhead bulbs of the basement bar, the booming music and the confidence of the men who’d just joined our group, one with ... Read more »

How a couple overcame SIX failed travel exemptions and a $500 scam to be reunited ahead of life-saving heart surgery - and how they have spent just 12 days together since marrying two years ago

Kazi Hossain, 33, knew he wanted to marry Tania, 31, the first time they met She was stranded in Bangladesh for two years due to Covid border closuresKazi found out he had a hole in his heart and needed surgery this yearHis dad was diagnosed with cancer and he had to help pay medical billsTried to to get Tania a travel exemption, but was scammed by a fake group Read more »

Bizarre moment anti-vaxxers gather in a popular dining strip to protest rules banning the unvaccinated from entering venues and claim they are being treated like Covid-19 'outcasts'

Anti-vaxxers stage protest on Acland St in St Kilda, Melbourne, on Saturday Dozens of demonstrators lined popular dining strip footpath for picnic protestThe protesters claimed the sit-in was against 'vaccine segregation' in VictoriaPolice said they are aware of the protests and had a 'highly visible' presence  Read more »

Bear Grylls' teenage son and the parachute stunt that was too mad even for daredevil dad - because he had his harness hooked into his own flesh

Bear Grylls' son Jesse, 18, jumped from a bridge with a parachute pierced through his shouldersIn the shocking clip Jesse takes a deep breath before launching himself forwardHe soars through the air and pulls on the parachute cord as he floats to safety He was joined by Stanislav Aksenov who invented suspension base jumping This summer Jesse shared a clip base jumping off a cliff in the Italian Dolomites Read more »

Forensic investigators scour Cleo Smith's family home for evidence amid fears the abduction of the four-year-old may have been planned by a stalker - as mum posts fresh plea

Cleo  Smith's disappearance is now being treated as a likely abduction by police Youngster vanished from tent she was sharing with family in Western Australia Four-year-old could be 'anywhere in Australia' as police receive hundreds of tips  On Saturday, police were seen at family home as taskforce cover 'all avenues' Read more »

Preemie baby born at 25 weeks after his mother was viciously stabbed in a random attack finally comes home from the hospital after FIVE MONTHS and multiple surgeries

Valerie Kasper, 34, was walking in Atlanta, Georgia with her three-year-old son in June when the man stabbed her multiple times She required an emergency C-section, and Theodore Jude was born at 25 weeks gestation weighing only two poundsKasper required multiple surgeries and is still in a lot of painTheodore needed four surgeries of his own and spent five months in the NICU before getting released on October 8He still requires oxygen, a feeding tube, medication, and a heart monitor, as well as frequent doctor's appointmentsChristopher Jones, 30, who was arrested for the attack, is thought by police to be mentally ill and has been indicted on multiple charges  Read more »

I've been bombarded with death threats after flashing my boobs in front of cathedral – but the trolls are pure filth

AN OnlyFans model was bombarded with death threats after a video of her flashing her boobs outside a cathedral resurfaced, reports suggest. The woman, who is known to subscribers as ... Read more »

Hotel staff reveal the guests they hate the most – are you one of them?

HOTEL staff have been spilling the secrets about the guests they hate the most – with a long list of pet peeves. If you take food from the breakfast buffet ... Read more »

Mystery of Brit family found dead on hiking trail finally SOLVED after two-month probe

A BRITISH family mysteriously found dead on a remote hiking trial in California were killed by hyperthermia and dehydration, cops have confirmed. Software engineer Jonathan Gerrish, 45, his wife Ellen ... Read more »

What we know about deadly prop gun shooting on 'Rust': Vigil held for Halyna Hutchins

Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was remembered by fellow crew members and supporters Saturday night with a candlelight vigil in Albuquerque, New Mexico, about one hour south of where “Rust,” the Western she ... Read more »

Spanish celebrate end of Covid lockdown by running with bulls as hair raising race returns

SPANIARDS have celebrated the end of their Covid lockdown by running with bulls as the hair raising race returns for the first time in months. Residents flocked to a small ... Read more »

Chris Laundrie is spotted taking in groceries and flowers one day after police confirmed human remains found in Florida swamp belonged to his fugitive son

Brian Laundrie's skeletal remains were positively identified on Thursday Sympathy bouquets were seen being delivered to family's home in North Port, Florida, Friday morning Brian's body was found Wednesday at Myakkahatchee Creek Park A notebook and a backpack that belonged to Laundrie were recoveredLaundrie, 23, was sole person of interest in the murder of his fiancée, Gabby Petito, who vanished in August in Utah Her strangled body was discovered in Wyoming on September 19 - six days after he went on the run  Read more »

Cop faces the sack after 5 officers ‘shared misogynistic & racist texts' with Wayne Couzens before Sarah Everard murder

A POLICE officer is facing the sack after five officers allegedly shared “racist and misogynistic” messages with Wayne Couzens. Four of the police officers from the Met, Sussex, Dorset and ... Read more »

Four Brits who posed for selfies at La Palma volcano joke they are ‘Spain's most wanted'

FOUR Brits who breached police checkpoints to pose for Selfies at the La Palma volcano have joked they are now “Spain’s most wanted”. Seb Jones, Andy Flavell, Tom Whaite and ... Read more »
On free-english-test.com you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic