Beaches evacuated in Western Australia after suspected shark attack

SYDNEY (AFP) - Several beaches were closed in Western Australia on Sunday after a suspected shark attack on an inflatable boat, officials said, just a week after a surfer had parts of his arms bitten off in a separate mauling.

The two men who were on board the inflatable canoe escaped unhurt and paddled back to shore, local media said.

Although government officials said they could not confirm what caused the damage to the boat, they said the puncture marks were consistent with a shark bite. The marks looked like "a series of punctures in an arc, giving the impression of a bite" said Ms Lisa Clack of the WA Fisheries Department's shark response unit, speaking to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Sunday.

The two men were in the canoe off Castle Rock near Dunsborough in south-west Australia late on Saturday when the suspected attack happened.

Two great white sharks were caught and killed off WA's south coast near Esperance after 23-year-old surfer Sean Pollard lost parts of both arms when he was attacked just over a week ago.

The attack followed the Western Australian government's decision to abandon its controversial catch-and-kill policy - where sharks are caught on hooks attached to floating drums placed off beaches - after objections from the state's environmental agency.

There is no current catch-and-kill order for the Castle Rock incident.

The last shark-related death was in September when a man was killed in front of his wife after being bitten on the leg while swimming at Byron Bay on Australia's east coast.

Experts say attacks by sharks, which are common in Australian waters, are increasing as water sports become more popular.

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