Sydney Shark Attack Triggers Search, Beach Shutdown

On Thursday, shockwaves rippled through Sydney, Australia, as authorities began trying to catch the great white shark that killed a local swimmer.

Australia’s Department of Primary Industries (DPI) closed 13 beaches in the city after the incident and deployed baited lines, drones, and helicopters to find the fish.

sydney shark attack

A drumline operator in Sydney, Australia. Photo: 9News


Eyewitness accounts put the shark at about 4.5 metres long. More recent estimates put it at about 3 metres or longer. It fatally attacked a swimmer at Little Bay beach who was training for an upcoming charity event.

Authorities have identified the victim as 35-year-old diving instructor Simon Nellist. Despite treatment from first responders, Nellist died at the scene from “catastrophic injuries”.

Sydney shark attack closes beaches, triggers search, cancels swim

Nellist had been training for the Murray Rose Malabar Magic Ocean Swim, which benefits children with disabilities. Organizers canceled the swim, originally scheduled for Sunday, out of respect for the victim.

In addition to actively looking for the shark, DPI confirmed that it installed six baited, SMART drumlines along the Sydney coast. SMART, or “Shark Management Alert in Real-Time” drum lines send GPS alerts to facilitate quick response time when they catch a shark.

sydney shark attack SMART drum lines

SMART drumlines consist of an anchor, two buoys, and a satellite-linked GPS communications unit attached to a baited hook. Image: NSW Department of Primary Industries


The system aims to help operators reach the animal before it dies on the line. They can then tag, relocate, and release it.

“The team responds immediately to the SMART drumline alert to manage the animal,” the DPI explains.

Search continues; human remains still sought

9News reported that swimmers continued visiting beaches despite the closures on Thursday. The closures covered about 20 km of coastline around Sydney’s Botany Bay.

Officials are also looking for any more human remains they might find — divers may join the search soon.

Shaun Daw, with Westpac Rescue Helicopter, said conditions are making the process difficult.

“We have chop out here, it drops off quickly, it adds to the complexity of [the search],” Daw said.