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