UPDATE 9.45PM: Warrnambool resident Narelle McQueen contacted The Standard to say she believed she spotted Sammy – alive – with her two daughters this evening.
She said they had visited the boat ramp because they were devastated that the iconic seal was believed to have been the one killed by a shark, but after a few minutes Sammy swam up for food.
UPDATE 5:00PM: Warrnambool beaches reopened by Surf Life Saving Club. No further shark sightings reported.
UPDATE 12.40pm: Warrnambool’s Lady Bay has been closed to swimmers on Friday morning after a seal was reportedly mauled by a shark late on Thursday night.
A female who was fishing with two male friends witnessed the attack and described it as ‘vicious’.
Warrnambool Surf Lifesaving Club president Michael Owen said it was unusual for a shark to come so close to shore.
“It is out of the ordinary,” he said.
“But now that it’s had a feed in here it knows to come in here.”
The attack comes after many shark sightings along the Great Ocean Road in the past few months.
“There have been more sightings this summer than there has been in years,” Mr Owen said.
“For whatever reason we are hearing about sharks more often.”
The mauled mammal is believed to be much-loved Lady Bay regular Sammy the seal.
“A girl witnessed the attack and called to advise us that a big shark had grabbed a large seal and ripped it apart,” he said.
“She described the attack as vicious.
“There are a few seals in the water here but the girl did say that the seal that was killed was large.”
The incident reportedly took place on the lower breakwater jetty where fishermen often frequent.
The witness said the shark was approximately three metres long
Warrnambool fishermen returning to Lady bay at the time of the beach closure were unaware of the incident.
“There’s plenty of sharks out there and we did hear of big ones not far offshore a month back but in the bay, that’s no good at all,” one said.
Surf club representatives decided to close all access to the main beach at 10.30am on Friday.
“It’s the unknown really and we’ve got to warn people about that,” Mr Owen said.
“One of our main concerns is kids jumping off the pier after school, we don’t want to take the risk of kids being in that water today.”
Tributes for the iconic creature flooded social media.
Locals and visitors to the area are describing the seal as an ocean buddy and suggesting a memorial be built in his honour.
10.51AM: A tribute page has been set up in honour of Sammy the seal. Join here.
10.45AM: In May 2008, The Standard reported Sammy had made the breakwater his home for the past few years.
At the time Mandy Watson from the Department of Sustainability and Environment said it wasn’t unusual that Sammy kept coming back to the breakwater.
She said it was common for seals to stay in the same place.
“They’re like dogs,” she said.
“They’re very intelligent.
“They usually hang around where fish get cleaned, which is what this one has done.”
However, she did say there was more than one seal that frequented the breakwater.
“People may think it’s the same seal but it’s not always,” she said.
10.35AM: South-west residents are shocked to hear of the death of Sammy.
10.30AM: Warrnambool beach is expected to be reopen about 5pm if there are no shark sightings.
Members of the club believe the last time the beach was closed due to a shark sighting was about 10 years ago.
10AM: The female who witnessed the shark attack described it as “vicious.”
She said it was a big shark that attacked a large seal.
Warrnambool Surf Life Saving president Michael Owen said he was concerned the shark may return.
“It is out of the ordinary for a shark to come in this close,” he said.
“Now that it’s had a feed in here it knows to come in here.”
Mr Owen said he believed there was a possibility it may even return tonight.
He said there had been a high number of shark sightings over summer than we have had in years.
Police will interview the witness.
A female fishing near the lower jetty on the breakwater witnessed the attack.
Warrnambool Surf Life Saving president Michael Owen said the beach was now closed.
“A shark came up and grabbed the seal and ripped it apart,” Mr Owen said.
He urged residents to stay out of the water.
A SHARK attacked and killed a popular seal on Thursday night.
Warrnambool Surf Life Saving club captain David Owen said the shark killed Sammy the Seal.
“Sammy the seal has been torn apart by a large shark outside the pavilion about 11pm last night,” Mr Owen said.
The beach is closed.
Warrnambool Surf Life Saving Club is about to send out a boat to search
The Emergency Vic website has a report of an unconfirmed shark sighting.