The man, named by a local newspaper as 38-year-old Mark Thompson, was with two friends at Opal Reef, about 75km north of northern Queensland town of Cairns, when the shark attacked.

The friends pulled him semi-conscious from the water amid a “cloud of blood”.

Mr Thompson suffered massive leg wounds in the attack, including a severed artery, and died from a heart attack before paramedics could reach him.

Authorities are unsure which breed of shark was responsible for the attack but a tiger shark, bronze whaler or bull shark have been named as likely suspects.

An expert will examine the bite marks this week to determine the breed of shark.

Queensland Rescue Helicopter rescue pilot Spida Rider, who flew the man’s body to the mainland, said the area had been teeming with fish and sharks.

“It just surprises me that a shark would attack a person when there was so much food around the area,” he said.

Despite the headlines, the chances of a shark attack are extremely rare in Australia.

The earliest reported Australian shark attack death was in 1791.

On average, two or three Australians die each year from bee stings.

Over the past two centuries, on average less than one person has been killed per year by sharks.

In a more upbeat story, fisherman Dave Richardson emerged from his marathon 35-hour stint in the sea alive and well after his trawler overturned and quickly sunk near Moreton Island in southern Queensland.

Clutching a five-metre bamboo pole, tides swept him 100 kilometres south on Australia’s eastern seaboard until he was rescued.

His rescuer, fisherman Steve Hickman, originally thought he saw a turtle directly ahead.

“I seen his fingers. I thought maybe it was a loggerhead turtle. You don’t get used to seeing humans floating out there,” he recalled.

“Geez, I’m glad to see you,” were the first words from the exhausted trawlerman.

During his ordeal, Mr Richardson drifted close to other boats several times as they passed him in the darkness.

He’s expected to make a full recovery from sunburn, exposure and dehydration

However his 68-year-old father is missing, presumed drowned.

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