BEACHES across Port Macquarie remained closed today (August 17) because of an increase in shark activity following an attack at Shelly Beach that left a woman with severe leg injuries.
Lifeguards kept beaches between Nobbys and Lighthouse under close watch and free of swimmers and surfers at the request of the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) after several white sharks were spotted off the coast.
Chantelle Doyle, 35, is recovering after surgery at John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle following an horrific attack on Saturday at Shelly Beach where she was pulled from her surfboard by a juvenile great white shark estimated to be between two and three metres in length.
The shark bit into her right calf before latching on to her thigh leaving deep lacerations and nerve damage that required more than nine hours of micro-surgery to repair.
Despite the traumatic ordeal, Chantelle, a dedicated conservationist and botanist currently completing her PhD at the University of New South Wales, wished no harm to the shark.
Her husband Mark Rapley has been lauded as the "husband of the year" after punching the shark numerous times before pulling his wife on to his surfboard and bringing her to shore.
Mark could not thank the efforts of strangers enough in helping to save his wife's life.
He said he did what anyone would do to save the life of his partner and mother of their young child.
The couple, former residents of the area, were surfing in pristine conditions off popular Shelly Beach when their ordinary day turned upside-down.
In one splash, Mark saw his wife pulled from her board, followed by screams of terror.
When he paddled to her, he saw the shark had a grip of Chantelle's leg.
"You see the mother of your child, your support - you just react," Mark said during an emotional press conference from John Hunter Hospital.
Mark instinctively thought to strike back, hitting the shark numerous times.
"You feel like you're punching a ball of muscle ... it feels like you are punching a brick wall."
He says he is thankful Chantelle is alive.
Bystanders on the beach immediately assisted by applying a tourniquet to Chantelle's leg before emergency services arrived. Witnesses say despite her injuries and extensive bleeding, Chantelle remained calm while being treated at the scene.
Three Ambulance NSW crews, a specialist medical team via the Westpac Rescue Helicopter along with one inspector were dispatched to the job.
Surf Life Saving NSW CEO Steve Pearce said Mr Rapley's actions were a "tremendous act of bravery".
"We've had some really serious and tragic shark encounters over the past couple of months along the NSW coastline so to paddle out of your own safety zone, in to an area where you know there is a large shark, I think is amazing," Mr Pearce said.
Surf Life Saving NSW provided coastal surveillance of the area today using UAVs (drones), jetskis and inflatable rescue boats (IRBs) to help spot the shark and assist the NSW Department of Primary Industries.
It is not unusual for an increase in shark activity during whale migration season. The waters off Shelly Beach is also a habitat for grey nurse sharks.
It is the third serious shark attack on the Mid North Coast in five months.