July 9, 2008 / 7:57 AM / 12 years ago

Australian town on alert after "Jaws" sighting

CANBERRA (Reuters Life!) - An east Australian seaside town popular with holidaymakers has been placed on alert after a 7-metre (22-foot) Great White Shark was sighted in a shallow lake, and the police are already calling it “Jaws”.

The shark, which normally prefers deeper and colder offshore waters, was caught by a commercial fisherman casting nets on Tuggerah Lake, which opens in one area to the Pacific Ocean at The Entrance, some 100 km (60 miles) north of Sydney.

But it escaped because its huge size forced the fisherman to release his net, Entrance region police chief Tim Winmill said.

“The shark was bigger than the guy’s 18-foot boat and he could clearly see its head and tail above the water,” Winmill told Reuters.

“It’s a big one, like Jaws,” he added.

More than 50,000 people live in the lakeside area, which is popular with retirees and vacationers.

Tuggerah Lake is only about three meters (10 feet) deep and 12 km (7.5 miles) long.

Great Whites can weigh up to 2,250 kg (5,000 lb) and are common off southern Australia, South Africa, California and Mexico, where they prey normally on seals, dolphins and tuna.

In director Steven Spielberg’s 1975 Oscar-winning popular thriller “Jaws”, a Great White Shark terrorizes a summer resort, prompting the police chief to enlist the help of a marine biologist and professional shark hunter to end the attacks.

Reporting by Rob Taylor; Editing by Jeremy Laurence and Miral Fahmy

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