January 12, 2009 / 8:24 AM / 9 years ago

Australians pull no punches when it comes to sharks

<p>A surfboard which a bite taken out of it by a shark in Binalong Bay, near St Helens, Tasmania is seen in this handout obtained January 12, 2009.Tasmania Police/Handout</p>

SYDNEY (Reuters) - An Australian man fought off a shark as he snorkeled near Sydney Monday, freeing his leg from its jaws with a punch.

"I just turned and started swinging. I think I got one on him," Steven Foggarty, 24, told local media as he stood on crutches outside hospital.

"I just saw the blood all over both feet and had a quick look to make sure both legs were there and they were there."

Foggarty was bitten on his right leg by the bull shark as he snorkelled in the mouth of Lake Illawarra, south of Sydney. He suffered 40 puncture wounds to his calf.

It was the third shark attack in Australia in two days.

Off Australia's southern island state of Tasmania, an Australian surfer punched a five-meter (16-ft) shark in the head as he rescued his 13-year-old cousin who had been bitten on the leg and dragged beneath the water Sunday.

The pair were surfing when the white-pointer grabbed the girl's leg and dragged her down twice. Her cousin, Syb Mundy, 20, paddled over, punched the shark, put the girl onto his surfboard with him and paddled into shore.

Mundy said hitting the shark on the head "was like hitting a brick wall -- it was that dense." "It was easily the length of a car. It was just a monster," Mundy told local radio on Monday.

"Once it let her go she was bleeding pretty bad. There was a lot of blood in the water. I think it just didn't like the taste of her, to tell you the truth," he said.

The shark circled the pair as they paddled toward the beach.

"The shark actually got on to the wave. We looked to our left and this thing started surfing toward us and we just headed straight to the beach," said Mundy.

"I can remember seeing the eye come out of the water and the head and I was going to try and poke it in the eye if I could get close enough," he said.

WATER CHURNING

In another near-tragedy Sunday, a surfer on Australia's northeast coast survived a shark bite and paddled himself to shore with a 40-centimetre (16-inch) gash in his left thigh.

Jono Beard, 31, was surfing with friends, watching some dolphins swim by, when he was bitten. He paddled for 80 metres (yards) to the shore, all the while shadowed by the shark.

Beard was flown by helicopter to hospital where he underwent surgery to a deep gash to his leg.

"We were all just out there and there were six or seven dolphins around us. It was a bit of a tranquil morning," local media quoted surfing friend Paul Holden as saying.

"Then out of the blue there was an attack from below and the shark grabbed Jono and started thrashing him around. The water was churning."

A 51-year-old Australian man was killed by a Great White Shark on December 27 while he was snorkelling off a beach south of Perth in Western Australia.

Many shark species, including the Great White, are protected in Australian waters and some wildlife officials believe they are venturing closer to popular beaches.

Despite the recent attacks, there have only been about 60 fatal shark attacks in the past 50 years, according to the Australian Shark Attack File at Sydney's Taronga Zoo.

Reporting by Michael Perry; Editing by Jeremy Laurence

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