A man has been attacked by a bull shark in Perth’s Swan River, at Point Walter Reserve in the suburb of Bicton.
The attack happened about 8am on Thursday near Blackwall Reach, a limestone cliff running along the river that is popular with swimmers, paddlers and rock climbers.
The man aged in his 50s was bitten on the leg by a two-three metre bull shark before being pulled from the water.
He was helped to shore by a kayaker and another person on a stand-up paddle board, the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development said.
It is understood the man received CPR before he was taken by ambulance to Royal Perth Hospital with what WA Police said were serious injuries to his leg.
The full severity of the man’s injuries is not yet known, but he was taken to hospital under “priority one” conditions, the fastest ambulance transport possible.
Bull sharks are present in the Swan River but are very rarely involved in attacks.
Police are urging swimmers to stay out of the water near Point Walter.
Rescuers thanked for saving swimmer
WA Premier Mark McGowan said he understood it was “quite a serious bite”.
“A man in his 50s was swimming in the river,” Mr McGowan said.
“He’s been bitten on the leg by a bull shark.
“Some kayakers, I understand, rescued the man, and I’d like to thank them for that and I wish the man all the very best in [his] recovery.”
Mr McGowan said it was a “very, very surprising event”.
“We haven’t had a attack by a bull shark in the river for 50 years. The last time someone was killed by a bull shark in the river was 100 years ago, so this is unexpected and surprising,” he said.
The last time a fatal attack was recorded in the Swan River was in 1923 when a 13-year-old boy died from a bite to his thigh.
‘Freak’ river attack very rare, expert says
Shark expert Adrian Gleiss said the serious attack was “a bit of a freak accident”.
“It’s a tragic event but actually it’s a very, very unusual event,” he said.
“We haven’t had a shark attack in the river for over 90 years, so I think that statistic in itself shows how much of an uncommon event this really is.”
Dr Gleiss said bull sharks tended to live in waters close to humans, so they were more likely to come into contact with people than other sharks.
“All large sharks pose a danger to humans and around the world there have been more incidents with bull sharks rather than other species, because they tend to live quite close to coasts,” he said.
But he said it was unusual for a bull shark of that size to come into the Swan River and they had proved difficult to tag.
He said the Swan and Canning rivers were nurseries for bull shark pups, although there were “relatively few” there at any one time.
These pups, usually between 80 centimetres and 1.3 metres long, live in the river and travelled regularly between West Swan and Point Walter, where the attack occurred.
“Those bigger individuals, we have no idea when they come or anything,” Dr Gleiss said.
“We think it’s got to do with pupping and they should pup around this time of year when the water is really starting to warm up, so from that point of view it really makes sense that that could be a pregnant female or one that has recently given birth.”