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If the cops were ordered to kill and they were so close they could reach out and touch his dorsal fin, why wasn’t he executed?

Yesterday, 60-year-old Rob Pedretti was doing what is, was, a regular winter ritual for surfers in Queensland: a little cross-border raid to try and grab some extra juice on the miles of indiscriminate beachbreak that stretch south of the QLD border at Cape Byron.

We all know what happened next.

The poor bastard had his leg torn off in the jaws of a fiery white man. He did not survive the attack.

Mild and wintry day. You have a lot of them here this time of year.

Hot sun, high drifting clouds. Clean baby food with flying cat paws on it. A fit sixty-year-old man would think of nothing more than to enjoy a little shred.

A hundred miles to the south, I was feeling a little nervous.

Almost a year to the day since a juvey White buzzed me with a little too much intent. On the back bank with my boy and my girl.

I don’t like to surf on the back banks, with deep channels between me and the land. Too many opportunities for white people to cross paths to have a pearl on you. I rarely do these days, but my son wanted a share of it and helicopter parenting is not my bag. If a child wants a piece of it, my reaction is almost always: of course, go get it.

My boy was fucking in the water. “Get back on your board,” I ordered.

He must have sensed something in my voice.

“Why?” he has answered.

I did not answer. I just scanned the water. There was bait, birds and dolphins feeding. Nothing unusual there, it’s typical. Especially for this time of year.

A short chronology and a context follow, for the record.

Twenty-three days ago buddy the shark drum line contractor for the smart drum line network off Ballina / Lennox complained about the endless swell.

The surf was pumping but it was agitated; he had dragged a big twelve foot White off the battery line two days before and wanted to get back to work. The big swell prevented him from baiting and checking the equipment.

He, like me, believes the battery lines keep surfers safe in the area which has become a hotspot for white shark attacks. Few whites can swim in front of a 22/0 circle hook with a stingray flap for bait.

They are dragged a mile out to sea and released with a tag inside.

So we all knew it was that time of year again.

But we forgot, in the middle of a beautiful swell run at the end of autumn. The crowds were large, there was security in numbers.

The day before the attack was a dream day. Head-up sets tumbling down the bank. Moderate crowd. The water was filled with bait. Shards of cut glass in the morning sun. A yellowtail trevally the size of a little pony swam right in front of me. Transparent water.

There is no security there. We have learned that the published guidelines for avoiding white shark attacks are completely BS. They like clear water, the sun, small surfboards. The mistaken identity theory was the first victim. White sharks, we have learned, are curious to aggressive.

What makes a spectator, a strapper, a bumper and then a biter, we don’t know.

Neither Rob Pedretti nor his friends who tried to train him after the attack. The attack happened around ten in the morning. The paramedics were there at 10:40 a.m. The police cat rushed out of Tweed Heads, got out of the bar, got a new suburb called Casuarina.

It took a little less than an hour.

Rob was already gone by then.

Under a blue sheet on the beach, the soul transports, hopefully, to a more peaceful place.

Cat cops found a lifeline on a ski playing cat and mouse with a very restless predator. The shark had no intention of leaving the scene of the attack. Section 37 of the Fisheries Act was invoked, which allowed the police to execute a killing order on the shark.

The footage of the incident makes this killing order seem baffling. At one point in the vision, a cop at the bow of the ship leans over, almost close enough to the shark to stroke its dorsal fin. He has what appears to be a camera in his hand.

I called Inspector Kehoe from the Byron-Ballina Regional Command and asked him what had happened. If you were ordered to kill and you were so close, why was he not executed?

“It was not safe to do it,” he assured me.

The shark was too deep to be safely stowed away with a gun, which is the method used.

I didn’t ask him the deeper moral question of whether it should have?

In this case, I think so.

A defining characteristic of living things, from amoeba to blue whales, is their defense against predation. To renounce this fundamental natural law is to cover the existence of a sickly mantle of ill-advised anthropomorphism. We accept our place in the food chain, even celebrate it, but we don’t let the killer escape into a crowded surf area.

He pushed the guy aside, attacked his pals as they tried to save him in a total nightmare scenario, and then hung around for four hours afterward.

A defining characteristic of living things, from amoeba to blue whales, is their defense against predation. To renounce this fundamental natural law is to cover the existence of a sickly mantle of ill-advised anthropomorphism. We accept our place in the food chain, even celebrate it, but we don’t let the killer escape into a crowded surf area. At least, not without a tag and a free trip out of the region.

Can we do something now?

My buddy George Greenough has had numerous encounters with white people and has written about them in detail.

Awareness is its main tool. You must activate the primitive senses, the old lizard brain, which kept us safe in the savannah. If you feel anything, check it. Investigate the movement.

It’s amazing how this big animal can approach you without you knowing it.

But if you can, if you can get your legs out of the way, even a few microseconds’ notice can save your life.

As for his friends who dragged him through the gutter, while a white mounted in power hit them and surrounded them. It is so awful. So, so heavy.

People say they hate their fellow surfers. I love my surfing sisters and brothers and I love them even more when I think about what these guys did for their boyfriend.

I hope they are doing well.

If you know them, keep an eye out.

They won’t sleep well for a long time.


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