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Shark-petting tourists may spark Jaws law

Great white shark: 'Not a toy' says South Australia's environment minister  

ADELAIDE, Australia -- Officials in South Australia say the are considering new legislation after tourists were seen petting great white sharks in the midst of a feeding frenzy.

Video footage released earlier this week showed a group of sightseers -- one of them apparently carrying a child -- clambering onto the floating body of a whale and patting the backs and snouts of sharks as they tore off chunks of flesh from the carcass.

Now officials say new laws may be needed to "to protect people too stupid to protect themselves".

South Australian state Environment Minister Iain Evans said he was "appalled" at the lack of respect the tourists had shown for their own safety. Asia
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Summer of the shark  

"These creatures are not toys," he was quoted as saying.

"In the case of the great white they can be extremely dangerous and it is clear the state government will need to look at changing the law."

Exclusion zone

He said he would propose new legislation to extend laws barring ships from coming within 100 meters of a live whale to include dead animals as well.

The whale involved -- a southern right -- was believed to have died last week from natural causes near to Cape Jervis, some 100 km (62 miles) south of Adelaide.

Its body quickly became the focus of attention from about a dozen great whites, and boat operators in the area seized on the opportunity to give tourists a close up-look at the sharks.

Great whites are a protected species under Australian law and their numbers have grown considerably in recent years.

Attacks by them on humans are still rare, but last year two surfers off the coast of South Australia were killed by sharks on two consecutive days.

• International Shark Attack File

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