Supposed Australia great white shark attack turns out to be a “fish story”

After scores of media outlets reported a supposed “great white shark attack” yesterday, just north of Syndey’s Mona Vale Basin, a scientist has ruled out the claims that a white shark was involved and has identified the species involved as a wobbegong (a type of bottom-dwelling carpet shark), according to Australia’s ABC News. Wobbegongs are generally considered harmless toward humans, unless stepped on or antagonized. Paul Welsh was bitten by the wobbegong yesterday. He was treated for lacerations and then discharged from the hospital. A tooth fragment was recovered from his wounds at the hospital, which allowed for the positive identification of the species to be made.

While it doesn’t appear that the victim ever claimed to have been attacked by great white shark, at least one witness, Michael Brown (a “shark spotter”), made the rounds with the media suggesting that a 2m (6.5′) juvenile great white could have attacked the man. According to ABC News, Brown claimed that “the animal that bit Mr Welsh appeared to be a two-metre great white, by the look of its tail.” Brown also told the Herald Sun that Welsh grabbed a rock, he “was hanging on to the rock for grim death.” ABC News reports that Brown has a history of stirring up fears about sharks in Sydney and has accused the NSW Government of ignoring warning signs that shark populations were increasing in the area.

Steve Whan, NSW Primary Industries Minister, has called Brown’s integrity into question regarding his account of the incident and commented that one would not have to know much about sharks to distinguish a wobbegong from a great white.

By the way, this is wobbegong shark…

and this is a great white shark…


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