Two separate shark attacks on surfers over the last two days forced the World Surf League to cancel one of its major competitions in Western Australia, the organization announced Tuesday.
The Margaret River Pro, the league’s second major competition, was cancelled over safety reasons due to the spate of sharks attacks, World Surf League CEO Sophie Goldschmidt said in a statement.
“Today, the WSL has made the difficult decision to cancel the remainder of the Margaret River Pro, as a result of exceptional circumstances surrounding this season’s event regarding sharks and the safety of our surfers,” Goldschmidt said. “This decision has been reached after many hours of consultation with a variety of stakeholders and experts.”
The shark attacks occurred in the waters near Gracetown, the location of the surfing competition’s primary site at Main Break, Goldschmidt explained. With beached whales in the area, Goldschmidt said it has attracted more sharks and increased the possibility of more attacks.
The league usually has a lot of confidence in its ability to protect surfers when they’re in the water, but events in the past have forced the organization to take proper precautions, Goldschmidt said.
“However, the threshold has been crossed for the organization and if we decided to continue the event under the current circumstances, and something terrible were to take place, we would never forgive ourselves,” she said.
Two men were injured in separate shark attacks Monday. A 37-year-old man was bitten on the legs and taken to a Perth hospital. The condition of the other man wasn’t immediately known.
There had been three more shark sightings since two surfers were attacked near the event site, according to Fox Sports Australia.
On Monday former world champion Gabriel Medina voiced his concerns on social media over the possibility of shark attacks.
“However, the threshold has been crossed for the organization and if we decided to continue the event under the current circumstances, and something terrible were to take place, we would never forgive ourselves.”
“Today they had two shark attacks on a beach next to which we are competing. I don’t feel safe training and competing in that kind of place, any time can happen.’’ he said on Instagram.
World No. 1 Italo Ferreira also expressed his concerns.
“Very dangerous, don’t you think?” he wrote on Instagram. “Is the safety of athletes not priority? We’ve had multiple alerts. Life is worth more! I hope it doesn’t happen to any of us. I don’t feel comfortable training and competing in places like this.”
Fears of what’s lurking the water brought back painful memories of then-world champion surfer Mark Fanning who fought off a shark in 2015 in a World Surf League competition in South Africa.
Griff Jenkins and the Associated Press contributed to this report.