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Girl and woman bitten by shark in Australia's Whitsundays

A girl and a elderly woman have been bitten by a shark in the Whitsundays, continuing a spate of attacks in the popular north Queensland region.

The pair had been in shallow waters at Catseye Beach on Hamilton Island when they were attacked about 9.30am (local time) on today, a Queensland ambulance spokesman says.

The woman was treated at Hamilton Island Medical Centre for a wound on her right leg, while the girl has been transferred to Proserpine Hospital for further treatment to a bite to her foot.

Neither injuries are life-threatening.

It comes after Victorian man Daniel Christidis, 33, died in November after being bitten by a shark at Cid Harbour during a trip with friends and colleagues.

That incident followed separate attacks on Tasmanian woman Justine Barwick and Victorian 12-year-old Hannah Papps within 24 hours in September.

Shark expert Samantha Munroe said it was difficult to say what was behind the string of attacks given the Whitsundays has had low numbers of attacks, despite being home to dangerous tiger and bull shark species.

But she said an increase in the number of people in waters across Australia had correlated with a rise in attacks over the past 50 years.
"Attacks are extremely rare in the Whitsundays," Dr Munroe said.

"There are no solid theories that really exist to explain why most shark attacks occur or why there would be a spike following what has essentially been a very long period of no attacks in the area.

"There has been an increase in attacks in the past several decades, but globally and national this increase is consistent with increases in our population and the number of people who visit the beach to swim, or snorkel or surf.

"At a national level, that's probably the best explanation for current trends."

Mr Christidis' death sparked calls for greater shark control measures in the Whitsundays, with the state government responding with more funding for research into the increase in shark activity in the area, as well as an ongoing "sharkwise" program.

Shark (file picture).
Shark (file picture). Source: istock.com