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Last Updated: Monday January 12 2009 18:14 GMT

Sharks circle beaches down under

A great white shark

Sharks are making swimmers in Australia sweat after three people were attacked by the creatures in just two days.

In one of the attacks, a 13-year-old girl was surfing off the island of Tasmania when she was grabbed by a five metre-long white pointer shark.

She got dragged underwater twice before her cousin came to the rescue by punching the shark until it let her go.

It's thought the fearsome predators have been stalking beaches around Australia in their search for food.

Great White shark
When they're hunting, the animals can get really close to shore and sometimes mistake people on surfboards for seals or other animals that they like to snack on.

The latest happened on Monday, when a man had to punch his way to freedom after a bull shark bite his leg as he snorkelled in waters south of Sydney on the east coast.

It followed an attack on another man, who suffered a 40cm-long shark bite as he surfed off the northeast coast.

So far, lots of swimmers in Sydney say they're still happy to go into the water although many admitted they'd be staying in shallow water as they're scared of being attacked.

'Unfortunate coincidence'

Although shark attacks are not uncommon in Australia, it's unusual for there to be so many in such a short space of time.

But experts say only 60 people have died from shark attacks over the past 50 years and the recent incidents were an "unfortunate coincidence" rather than evidence that shark attacks are increasing.