Catseye Beach, Hamilton Island, the scene of this morning's attack.
Catseye Beach, Hamilton Island, the scene of this morning's attack. Darren Tierney

Shark bite claim questioned

CONJECTURE has emerged about what marine creature was at the centre of this morning's attack at Hamilton Island.

In a statement released at 5.07pm, Hamilton Island has cast doubt that the attack on a nine-year-old girl and woman in her 60s at Catseye Beach, came from a shark.

"Following this morning's incident on Catseye Beach, Hamilton Island has now had the opportunity to speak to a number of people, including our own medical staff, resident professional fishermen and independent fisheries personnel," the statement said.

"We have received advice from industry experts, taking into account the bite shape and size from a fish of approximately 50cm in length and the location under the foot.

"Whilst we cannot unequivocally say it is not a shark bite, those factors lead us to believe that this attack was from a toad fish.

"Toad fish are known to frequent the waters of the Whitsundays, are often aggressive and are sometimes called "toe" fish as they occasionally attack feet and toes, usually only if provoked."

This statement is a U-turn on an earlier statement issued by the popular holiday resort to the Whitsunday Times at 11.35am.

"Hamilton Island can confirm a child and an adult sustained lacerations from a shark less than 1 metre long, during an incident off Catseye Beach this morning," the earlier statement said. 

"Hamilton Island is part of the Whitsundays marine ecology and sharks are known to be present in the waters in the region."

Catseye Beach was closed and surveillance undertaken following the incident, which was reported to the Queensland Ambulance Service at 9.29am.

The injuries sustained by the pair were not life-threatening.

QAS senior operations supervisor Ross Vickers told media the woman, who was treated to a "reasonable laceration", said it was a shark.

"The elderly lady identified what appeared to be a shark at the time, estimated to be 1m in length, which was also confirmed by lifesavers at the beach," he said.

Mr Vickers added the young girl, who was transferred to Mackay Base Hospital after being treated at Proserpine Hospital, "sustained a small soft tissue injury to her right foot, which is not threatening the viability of the foot."

"The injury was 5-10cm in diameter," he said.