Shark attack survivor wins legal exemption to keep tooth embedded in surfboard

Emma Pedler
Swellnet Dispatch

Chris Blowes learnt to surf again on his prosthetic leg

A man who was almost killed by a great white shark near Port Lincoln in South Australia has been granted a legal exemption to keep the animal's tooth that was left embedded in his surfboard. 

Chris Blowes was surfing at Fishery Bay on Anzac Day in 2015 when he was attacked, losing his leg to the shark.

He lost consciousness several times while paramedics performed CPR during his medical evacuation to Adelaide.

"I tried to get [the tooth] back a few times — it's good to have it back in my hands," he said.

Under the state's Fisheries Management Act, it is illegal to possess, sell or purchase any part of the protected species — penalties can attract up to a $100,000 fine or two years' imprisonment. 

This is the first time the state has granted an exemption to this Act, according to the Department of Primary Industries and Regions, SA (PIRSA). 

It is the first time anyone has been allowed to keep a great white tooth following a shark attack

"It's ridiculous to think considering it took my leg and it was stuck in my board — it seems stupid that I wasn't able to have it in the first place, but that's what the law says."

Mr Blowes said he believed police recovered his board when it washed up on the beach after the attack.

"They noticed the tooth and did the right thing and handed it into Fisheries; once it was in their hands I could no longer have it," he said. 

"You can see the damage on the end of the tooth from it going into my board — it's definitely a bottom jaw tooth — its top jaw got my left flank and the bottom jaw got the underside of my board."

'There should always be an exemption'

Port Macquarie's Dave Pearson, who founded the Bite Club Facebook group for fellow shark attack victims, said there should always be exemptions for survivors.

"It means a lot for the survivor to have that souvenir from their attack — it's an attachment and I guess it's a connection to the shark that you need to have," he said.

"[Chris] paid a hell of a price just for one tooth; it's not just a tooth to him, it's a souvenir for losing his leg.

"I do understand the rules and why they exist, and nobody in our group wants to actively go out and kill a great white just so they can get a set of jaws. 

"They dropped teeth all the time — that's the thing that does amuse me — that you can go diving and especially down in South Australia, you can pick up white teeth anywhere you like that's been discarded by the shark but it's illegal for you to collect them.

"I think that's a silly rule."

Chris was surfing at Fishery Bay, South of Port Lincoln when he was attacked (Photo: Evan Hunt)

Possession with terms and conditions

Mr Blowes said there were quite a few terms and conditions he agreed to to keep the tooth. 

"[PIRSA] pushed back a few times and we had to write the terms and conditions up," he said.

David Basham, the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, said it was the least his department could do to have the tooth returned to him.

"Chris has obviously been through a hugely traumatic experience and I wanted to see if there was anything I could do to help," Mr Basham said.

Mr Blowes said he would take the tooth along to his motivational talks but, in the end, it was a high price to pay for the item.

"It's not a fair trade, a leg for a tooth."

//EMMA PEDLER & EVELYN LECKIE
© Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

Comments

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba Tuesday, 4 May 2021 at 6:09pm

bureaucracy bullshit..........

Deanocarve's picture
Deanocarve's picture
Deanocarve Sunday, 9 May 2021 at 8:07am

Bureaucrap !!

Brad Ferrier's picture
Brad Ferrier's picture
Brad Ferrier Tuesday, 4 May 2021 at 6:29pm

Good on you Chris for getting back in the water, don’t get me started on bureaucracy gone mad. Hey, you probably still surf better than most.

belly's picture
belly's picture
belly Tuesday, 4 May 2021 at 6:30pm

Good on you Chris, yew at photo 1!

evosurfer's picture
evosurfer's picture
evosurfer Tuesday, 4 May 2021 at 6:34pm

Just remember all these bureaucrats were the nerds, unpopular drop kicks at school
that were relentlessly harassed now they hold the power and direct and control our lives
and make the most of their power and certainly cant think outside the square.
Im glad you got it but really it shouldnt of been that difficuilt.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Tuesday, 4 May 2021 at 6:44pm

Well done Chris hope it didnt cost you to much
Crowdfund it mate - i got a Tenner towards your tooth !!
Team up with Ollie Dousett....yew

dr-surf's picture
dr-surf's picture
dr-surf Tuesday, 4 May 2021 at 7:21pm

Incredible Survivor.

ringmaster's picture
ringmaster's picture
ringmaster Tuesday, 4 May 2021 at 7:48pm

Evosurfer is correct.

I worked at a local university for years and saw first hand that student unions are a fertile breeding ground for future politicians.

While all the normal crew are partying hard at uni, these unpopular, dysfunctional fuckwits gravitate to the student unions and all of a sudden have some 'power' due to the apathy and lack of interest from the rest. They form political allegiances and fast forward a few years down the track and the same deadshits are creating dumb policy such as this example.

Goodonya Chris and big props to you for getting back out in the surf. Can't imagine many would after experiencing that.

tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter Tuesday, 4 May 2021 at 8:51pm

Absolutely , kudos to Chris. The stupidity of some of the stances fisheries take on things like that doesn't shock me one bit .
I once worked a dive charter boat and the punters were uni students , took them to an offshore sanctuary zone ,{which is legal for diving},,Anyway, they had their dive and decided to collect a couple of jars of water to test back in the lab for what the fark I don't know. But I didn't see a problem in it .
We were checked over by fisheries at the wharf and they actually confiscated the jars after the group told them what they were and where they obtained them. Something about even the microscopic life is protected in those waters. They weren't booked but ffs . It was taking going by the book to a new level.

shraz's picture
shraz's picture
shraz Wednesday, 5 May 2021 at 10:19am

Ha! what about all the water on your boat and in the wetsuits, nostrils etc! Here officer while you're at it take this sinus load too.

Dylan Gilford's picture
Dylan Gilford's picture
Dylan Gilford Wednesday, 5 May 2021 at 4:55pm

lol, snot a problem :)

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain Tuesday, 4 May 2021 at 8:59pm

Awesome to see him getting back out there regardless.

Farking bureaucrats, I think I prefer sharks.

I focus's picture
I focus's picture
I focus Wednesday, 5 May 2021 at 10:08am

Its one of those stories where "you're fu(king kidding" comes to mind.

Chris well done on your survival and working your way back from the attack / trauma,

batfink's picture
batfink's picture
batfink Wednesday, 5 May 2021 at 10:09am

It’s a strange application of law, clearly not related to the intention in the first place, which you have to assume was to protect sharks where their numbers were down (a whole other discussion).

Once a shark tooth is naturally dislodged, well, crazy to hold some legal framework around that.

Robo's picture
Robo's picture
Robo Wednesday, 5 May 2021 at 2:06pm

What about grey nurse teeth? My daughter bought one home from a dive last week, found it on the bottom, heaps of them.

The poo man's picture
The poo man's picture
The poo man Wednesday, 5 May 2021 at 2:14pm

daddy got to keep a great white's tooth that stuck into his board after biting it in half back in the 80's. less bureaucratic country back then

old-dog's picture
old-dog's picture
old-dog Wednesday, 5 May 2021 at 5:41pm

It would be interesting to know the law re being in possession of GW teeth. I have a huge one I've had since the 70's. and wouldn't mind flogging it off, wonder what its worth? Back then we sold them over the counter for a few bucks in John Arnold's surf shop.

DBEARINDARE's picture
DBEARINDARE's picture
DBEARINDARE Wednesday, 5 May 2021 at 10:03pm

How do those think tank sessions for the bone heads that make these rules go?

"Ahhhh yes. Well we can't have those folk just being able to keep the teeth of a great white.
Before you know it. Everyone will be out there, looking to get there limbs chomped off !"
"No. Best we make it illegal."
"Anyone for a brandy?"

Go you Chris.

Elliedog's picture
Elliedog's picture
Elliedog Thursday, 6 May 2021 at 6:27am

Good on ya Chris and all the best of luck going forward. Amazing to see you in the water again and actually surfing. Legend!!!

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin Thursday, 6 May 2021 at 7:51am

So much respect to this fella for the act of surviving alone. Glad to see he’s back surfing. Looks like he’s got a decent stance regardless. The person who initially refused to make the common sense decision to hand the tooth straight over needs a solid kick in the nuts.

aussieguy's picture
aussieguy's picture
aussieguy Friday, 7 May 2021 at 8:16am

Definite high price to pay but great to see you back in the water Chris. Imagine the wow factor when Chris is passing around that tooth during his motivation talks.

I agree with you Blowin on the nut job.

Quint's picture
Quint's picture
Quint Friday, 7 May 2021 at 9:20am

Fatass cake eaters sitting in an office with nothing better to do. Justifying their existence.

DBEARINDARE's picture
DBEARINDARE's picture
DBEARINDARE Friday, 7 May 2021 at 10:16pm

I'm with you Quint.
So many instances where knob heads with no idea are making rules for those who have an idea.

How does it go?
Those that think they know what they are doing.
Usually get in the way of those that do!
Happens way to often today, in my eyes.