Avalon Beach near Sydney, Australia, is closed to the public after a shark attack on a surfer on March 1, 2009.
Credit: Ian Waldie

It may sound callous, but seems true enough — open water sports and Western Australia are increasingly incompatible. 

WA officials now suspect that a great white shark attacked a 64-year-old man who disappeared while swimming off a popular Perth beach early Tuesday.

The attack comes a month after a bodyboarder was killed in a horrific attack by what was believed to have been a great white shark near Bunker Bay, south of Perth.

(Down Under reports: Shark rips bodyboarder in half off West Australia beach)

The regularity of attacks prior to that — and though there may be a few years in between each — is enough to make an irregular beach user think twice.

According to a list compiled by Perth's Sunday Times, the schedule looks like this:

  • August 2010: Nicholas Edwards, 31, fatally mauled at Gracetown, near Margaret River.
  • December 2008: Port Kennedy fisherman Brian Guest, 51, taken by a giant white pointer while snorkeling for crabs in about 16 feet of water near his beachside home.
  • March 2005: A 19 foot white pointer killed boat skipper Geoffrey Brazier, 26, while he snorkeled off the Abrolhos Islands.
  • July 2004: Carpenter Brad Smith, 29, was attacked and killed by two sharks while surfing off Gracetown.
  • November 2000: Businessman Ken Crew, 48, was killed by a 14 foot white pointer in waist-deep water at North Cottesloe.
  • October 1997, former professional footballer Brian Sierakowski and friend Barney Hanrahan escaped injury when a 16-foot white pointer attacked their double surf-ski 150 yards off Cottesloe.
  • November 1925: Samuel Ettelton, 55, was fatally attacked by a tiger shark while floating on his back at Cottesloe Beach.

Incidentally, and tragically, WA abalone diver Peter Clarkson, 49, was fatally mauled earlier this year by two great whites off Coffin Bay (that's right) in South Australia. 

In March, meantime, the Times reported that great white sharks were "lingering off Perth beaches for months at a time."

Previously, experts had believed that that WA waters were "a marine highway for white pointers migrating vast distances between South Australia, the Southern and Indian oceans and South Africa." 

And the head of the state's Department of Fisheries, Stuart Smith, told the paper that the numbers of white pointers appeared to be rising.

"The increasing presence of whales is probably helping the return of shark stocks," he reportedly said. "If you increase the food supply and the stocks are protected, you would expect the numbers are going to go up."

While Smith did not believe there was a greater danger of a shark attack, he didn't play down the risk: "If you're in their environment, they're probably going to be around. It's a hazard."

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In the latest attack, Bryn Martin, a successful businessman according to News Limited, disappeared Monday and police divers found his torn Speedo swim trunks hours later on the sea bed near a buoy just offshore. His wife identified them, police told the media.

News quotes a senior lifesaver as saying: "Fisheries experts have viewed the bathers and were of the opinion the damage is consistent with that a white pointer shark could cause."

There had been an unconfirmed shark sighting Monday morning at Trigg, about 10 miles north of Cottesloe, sparking fears of a possible attack.

Martin was last seen by a friend swimming a couple of hundred meters offshore at about 8 a.m. heading to a buoy that he rounded each morning, the Herald Sun reports.

Martin, a keen swimmer, competed in amateur events regularly, including the Rottnest Channel Swim, a 12.2 mile slog through open ocean.

Cottesloe Beach has been closed until further notice.

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