Australian Man Punches Shark, Survives Attack

An Australian spearfisherman is reportedly in stable condition following a brutal shark attack that took place off the Queensland coast on Saturday, the first in the area in recent memory. Allan Countryman, 31, fought off the predator by punching it, echoing another widely-reported incident that transpired last year in South African waters.

Countryman was spearfishing near Miall Island off Yeppoon just before midday on Saturday when the attack occurred, according to the Courier Mail. The Yeppoon native speared a trout, which attracted a large school of mackerel. Those fish in turn attracted the shark, which proceeded to attack him in shallow water, leaving him with lacerations to both his arms and legs.

According to Yeppoon coast guard flotilla commander Arthur Hunt, who responded to the scene of the attack, Countryman related that the shark surprised him with its presence.

“He said he was surrounded by fish when the shark came out of nowhere,” Hunt noted.

Countryman fought off the shark, punching the animal several times, according to the Guardian. He struck the shark until it stopped attacking him, while keeping the animal at bay with his forearm. After the shark retreated, Countryman swam back to his boat and made it aboard with the assistance of friends. A good samaritan provided first aid until rescue crews arrived. As Hunt’s crew were performing a training run near the site of the attack, they were able to reach Countryman within minutes.

Queensland Ambulance senior operations supervisor Brad Miers described the shark attack as a “head-on” event, pointing to extensive lacerations on Countryman’s forearm as evidence that he fought repeatedly to ward off the shark.

“His injuries suggest he was trying to fight the shark off, and they were severe especially to his upper right arm. I’ve been working up here for 25 years and haven’t seen anything like it, it’s rare and isolated well and truly.”

Miers also noted that the severity of the wounds Countryman sustained on his arms is evidence that he was engaged in fighting the shark for “a considerable amount of time.”

While the exact species of shark responsible for the attack has yet to be identified, Countryman reported that the animal was in excess of three-meters-long. As Bloomberg points out, there are some 165 shark species that inhabit Australian waters, including great whites, bull sharks, and tiger sharks. While those three species are thought to be the most likely to attack humans, they do not specifically target people. Instead, such interactions occur when the sharks confuse humans for their normal prey animals.

Over 2015, Australia has seen 22 unprovoked shark attacks, with one fatality counted among those incidents. Shark sightings have also led to repeated beach closures, particularly along the coast of New South Wales, intensifying pressure on local authorities to take action. A variety of shark management plans have been proposed, including the use of drones along shorelines, as well as so-called “smart” drum lines.

Countryman underwent surgery following the shark attack, and was listed in stable condition overnight. His family was seeking the identity of the person who rendered first aid prior to the coast guard’s arrival in order to thank them, according to a Facebook posting by family friend Donna Gudmann.

The attack comes just days after beaches were closed in New South Wales following the sighting of over 60 individual sharks. While that number may seem surprising, experts assert it is not out of the ordinary for this time of the year. Despite the presence of a wide range of sharks along the Australian coastline, Queensland residents still expressed shock regarding Countryman’s attack, the first in the region in years.

[Photo by Ian Waldie/Getty Images]