The World Surf League has made the unprecedented decision to cancel the remainder of the Margaret River Pro following two sharks attacks earlier this week.
Two men were attacked by sharks in separate incidents on Monday near where the event is being held and shark activity in the area has continued since, prompting organisers to put the event on hold on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, WSL CEO Sophie Goldschmidt released a statement confirming the event would be cancelled out of fear for the safety of athletes.
ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER THIS ADVERTISEMENT
“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,” the statement read.
“This decision has been reached after many hours of consultation with a variety of stakeholders and experts.
“The WSL puts the highest premium on safety. This cannot be just talk, and it cannot be compromised.
“On April 16th (local time), two separate shark attacks occurred at nearby Gracetown – approximately 6 kilometres away from the primary event site at Main Break. The presence of beached whales in the area has attracted sharks and contributed to the aggression of their behaviour, which, experts agree, has increased the possibility of further attacks. These findings have resulted in nearby locations being closed to surfing and swimming.
“We are painfully aware that this decision will have commercial ramifications for the local community, and will disappoint some of our partners, fans and athletes. We sincerely regret that.
The WSL is aiming to complete both the men and women’s competition sometime this year but if that cannot happen, the league’s competitive structure allows for points distribution in the event of a cancellation.
“Margaret River is a special venue, with incredible partners. It has produced many memorable moments over the years, and at the moment we have no plans not to return in the future.”
“We appreciate that not everyone will agree with this decision, but hope that they will respect it. Athlete safety will always be our absolute priority and we thank the local community, our partners and our surfers for supporting the decision.”
The decision comes after a number of surfers voiced their concerns about the event going ahead.
Former world champion Gabriel Medina expressed his fears about re-entering the water as did fellow Brazillian and current world No.1 Italo Ferreira.
Two shark attacks in less than 24 hours here in Australia, just a few kilometres from where the event is being held,” Ferreira said on Instagram.
“Don’t you think that’s dangerous?
“Is the safety of athletes not a priority?
“I don’t feel comfortable training and competing in places like this.”