Great white shark caught at Bondi Beach

SYDNEY - Swimmers at Australia's most famous beach, Bondi, were given a scare Wednesday when a great white shark was pulled from the nets that are designed to keep them safe.

Fisheries officials said the 2.5 metre-long (8.2 feet) shark was dead when they hauled it onto a boat during thrice-weekly inspections.

"The shark was found during routine inspections by specialist contractors who carry out operations as part of the New South Wales shark meshing programme," the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries said.

The great white would be examined "as is practice for some sharks caught in our shark nets as part of national and international research projects", it added.

Popular beaches across Sydney and New South Wales state have been partially netted since 1937.

While the netting - which does not stretch the entire length of Bondi - is there to create a barrier between swimmers and sharks, it is also designed to stop the animals establishing territories where people use the water.

Official data for the 2012-2013 summer showed that more than 100 sharks became entangled in nets across New South Wales. Only three were great whites.

Shark attacks in Sydney are rare, but deaths and injuries routinely occur around Australia.

In October two great whites were killed after a young surfer lost parts of both arms in an attack off the south coast of Western Australia.

The most recent fatality was in September when a man was killed in front of his wife while swimming at Byron Bay on the New South Wales east coast.