A shark killed a swimmer on Wednesday off the coast of Sydney, Australia, officials said, in what local news outlets called the first fatal shark bite near the city in decades.
At about 4:30 p.m. in Sydney, police officers and other emergency workers responded to a report of a shark incident in the vicinity of Buchan Point near Malabar, according to a statement from the New South Wales Police Force. They found human remains in the water, the police said.
Little Bay Beach, about seven miles southeast of the Sydney Airport, was closed after the discovery and as officers continued to search the area. The police said the coroner would prepare a report on the death.
The New South Wales Police Force and the state’s ambulance service did not respond to phone calls on Wednesday. The authorities did not identify the person who died.
An official with the New South Wales ambulance service told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that the person had suffered severe injuries and that there was nothing paramedics could do.
On Wednesday, officials for Randwick City, the Sydney suburb where the attack took place, said area beaches would be closed for 24 hours while lifeguards patrolled the area looking for sharks.
It was the first fatal shark incident in Randwick City in recent memory, officials said, noting a shark bite injured someone in the area in February 2018. Australian news outlets reported that the last fatal shark bite on a Sydney beach was in 1963.
Mayor Dylan Parker of Randwick City said in a statement that his community was “in shock” after the death.
“The coast is our community’s backyard,” Mr. Parker said. “Little Bay is normally such a calm, beautiful place enjoyed by families. To lose someone to a shark attack like this is chilling.”
Kris Linto, a witness to the fatal bite, told 9 News, an Australian outlet, that he saw a great white shark bite the swimmer.
“We heard a yell and turned around, it looked like a car had landed in the water, a big splash then the shark was chomping at the body and there was blood everywhere,” he said.
Mr. Linto estimated the shark was about 4.5 meters long, or nearly 15 feet.
On Wednesday, the state government’s shark monitoring service said that at least two bull sharks were detected near Bondi Beach, about eight miles north of Little Bay.
Sharks and humans rarely make physical contact, and usually do so in areas where people swim and surf in large numbers. Very few of those encounters are fatal, according to data gathered by the International Shark Attack File, a part of the Florida Museum of Natural History.
Last year, the organization investigated 137 reports of shark-human interactions around the world and found that 73 were unprovoked shark bites on humans and 39 were provoked. The remaining 25 cases included a variety of scenarios, such as boat bites and cases that could not be confirmed.
In 2021, the United States led the world in unprovoked shark bites with 47, including one fatality. Australia ranked second with 12 unprovoked episodes, including six bites in New South Wales, two of which were fatal. Four bites took place in Western Australia, one leading to death.
In recent decades, the annual average of fatal shark bites in Australia has been one. But sharks have repeatedly proved a political issue in Australia, with debates around culling the fish and protective nets that have also resulted in the accidental deaths of thousands of other marine animals.
Those debates have increasingly focused on the staggering worldwide drop in the number of sharks and rays over the last 50 years. Scientists reported last year that oceanic sharks and rays have declined by 71 percent since 1970, mainly because of overfishing.
Last November, the New South Wales government announced a partnership to provide shark-bite-specific first aid training as part of the state’s shark management program. The government plan also includes a fleet of shark-spotting drones to watch over 50 beaches and the continuation of 51 shark nets along more than 100 miles of coast.