The hunt is on

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Locals have been asked to take out sharks after a series of attacks, but experts say they might be killing the wrong fish

On April 13, Do Van Cong of Quy Nhon Town caught this 1.6m long, 100 kilogram shark. Officials believe the shark was responsible for an early January attack in Binh Dinh Province.

Binh Dinh Province is encouraging fishermen to hunt for sharks after two more swimmers were attacked at a beach in the central town of Quy Nhon on May 19.

But experts say it is impossible to identify the specific shark involved in the attacks.

Vo Si Tuan, vice director of Nha Trang Institute of Oceanography in the south-central Khanh Hoa Province, said it was possible that the fish in question could be a shark species that lives in waters along Quy Nhon. However, he said such attacks were rare.

"It is impossible to identify a specific fish species based on victims' injuries caused by teeth, he said.

Vo Van Quang, a scientist at the institute, also said the shark species in Vietnam were not known for attacking humans.

Still, the local government has called on locals to bring in dead sharks, even after authorities took heat for failing to make good on an earlier promise to reward fisherman who catch and kill the majestic creature.

Taking a bite

The latest attack happened at around 6 p.m. on May 19 when two local women, 60-year-old Nguyen Thi Tanh and 58-year-old Nguyen Thi Thu Thao, were bitten by a large fish while swimming at a beach along An Duong Vuong Street in Quy Nhon

Shark attack victim Truong Thi Tanh being operated on at the Military Hospital 13 in the central Binh Dinh Province. Tanh and another local, Nguyen Thi Thu Thao, were bitten on their legs and feet by a fish when swimming at a beach in the province's Quy Nhon Town.

"I was swimming some 15 meters offshore when some fish bit my left foot. I cried for help in terror and Thao helped me to get ashore, Tanh said.

"When we were some five meters to the shore, Thao was bitten on her leg. People on the beach then carried us to the Military Hospital 13, she added.

Thao said the fish looked like a shark of between 20 and 30 kilograms.

Doctors at the hospital said Tanh suffered a cut five centimeters deep and they had to reconnect a tendon in her foot, while Thao suffered less serious injuries.

The incident was the third attack in Quy Nhon since last July, raising the number of injured to six people.

Fishy business

Earlier this year, the Binh Dinh People's Committee, the provincial government, put out a reward of VND10 million (US$527) for anyone who could catch the shark that attacked a man on January 9.

Many fishermen joined the hunt and Nguyen Trong from the nearby Phu Yen Province caught one, around five meters long and weighing one ton, in waters off Song Cau District on February 4.

However, Trong was not awarded after Nguyen Huu Hao, vice director of Binh Dinh Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said on February 5 the fish was not the one that had attacked the man in Quy Nhon.

The fishermen then had to bury the fish, after a trader bought it for VND30 million but soon returned it because she said others had claimed the fish was a whale which Vietnamese fishermen worship as a holy spirit and have sworn to never kill.

On April 13, Do Van Cong of Quy Nhon caught another shark in his net. The fish was 1.6 meters long and weighed around 100 kilograms.

After verifying its measurements, Hao said it was the shark involved in the attack. "It jaws and the injuries on the victim both have a perimeter of around 17 centimeters. Thus, we can say it is the one that attacked swimmers in Quy Nhon, he said.

However, the provincial authorities only awarded Cong VND5 million, half of the promised amount, without any explanation. Cong said he took the reward and sold the fish to a trader for VND3 million.

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