News State Western Australia All hope lost for WA surfer taken by shark off Esperance
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All hope lost for WA surfer taken by shark off Esperance

Police say the chances of finding the missing surfer alive are slim. Photo; ABC News/Mark Bennett
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The search for a man who was attacked by a shark at a surf break near Esperance on Western Australia’s south coast yesterday morning has resumed, with police saying it is now “a recovery mission”.

The local man, identified as Andrew Sharp, 52, was attacked while surfing at Wylie Bay’s popular Kelp Beds break around 11am on Friday.

Up to eight surfers were in the water at the time and witnessed the attack, along with bystanders on the beach.

No sign of Mr Sharp’s body has been found, but his surfboard was discovered washed up with signs of shark damage.

On Saturday, police said there was no longer any hope after fragments of a ripped wetsuit were found near the spot where he vanished.

Friends described Mr Sharp as semi-retired, with a former workmate telling the ABC that “he was semi-retired, I guess, just enjoying life and going for a surf.”

Premier Mark McGowan said on Friday the man’s surfboard had been recovered but there was no sign of him.

Another surfer tried to pull the victim from the water but was unable to do so.

“Unfortunately he hasn’t been recovered at this point in time,” Mr McGowan said.

The Premier described it as a “very serious” situation.

Police divers from Perth have joined the search.

Wylie Bay beach remains closed.

In the past decade, there have been fatal shark attacks in the area, and around the Esperance coast more broadly.

In 2014, 23-year-old surfer Sean Pollard was attacked by a shark at the beach, losing his arm and other hand.

Three years later, 17-year-old Laeticia Brouwer died after being bitten by a white shark in the same area.

Diver Gary Johnson was killed at Cull Island, off the Esperance coast, in January this year.

Mr McGowan said WA’s south coast, particularly around Esperance, was a known breeding ground for great white sharks and home to large seal colonies.

He said the government had taken extra safety measures to protect swimmers and surfers, including helicopter patrols, monitoring stations and subsidised shark shields.

However there was always an element of risk when entering the water, he said.

Police said the man who was attacked yesterday was a “prominent” local and well known in the community.

-with agencies