Warning of shark attacks in Sydney harbour

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The Independent Online

Marine experts warned people using Sydney Harbour and its adjoining rivers to beware of sharks after a man was attacked while he was out canoeing.

Paul McNamara, 35, suffered bruising and minor cuts when the shark rammed his kayak in the Parramatta river, which feeds into the harbour. "There was an almighty bang, and it was like someone had just picked the kayak up and flung me in the water," he said yesterday.

The shark circled him in the water as he attempted to escape, then butted him in the chest and winded him, he said. He managed to swim to a nearby buoy and clung to it for an hour before he was rescued by passing fishermen.

McNamara was not bitten, but the kayak had part of a shark's tooth embedded in it after the incident, as well as a large bite mark.

Police said the fish, believed to be an aggressive bull shark, might have ventured into the harbour's upper reaches to feed after recent heavy rains. They advised kayakers and rowing teams practising on the river to exercise caution.

The incident followed a similar attack last year in which a shark tried to overturn a school rowing boat. Before that, in 1996, a man required 50 stitches after being attacked by a shark as he swam at night in the Parramatta river. No one has been killed by a shark off Sydney's beaches or in the harbour since the Sixties.

John West, a shark expert from Sydney's Taronga Zoo, said people should be conscious of the presence of sharks in the harbour and rivers during the summer. "They just need to be aware that there could be sharks in the area, and it's a natural environment for them," he said.