Australia's largest city shut down 13 beaches after a swimmer was killed in a shark attack, the first such fatality in nearly 60 years.

Drones scoured the ocean from the air, spotters launched on boats and six drum lines were set to try to catch the creature, which is believed to be at least three metres in length.
Drones scoured the ocean from the air, spotters launched on boats and six drum lines were set to try to catch the creature, which is believed to be at least three metres in length. (AFP)

Sydney authorities have deployed baited lines to try to catch a giant great white shark that devoured an ocean swimmer, as beach communities in Australia's largest city were rocked by the first such attack in decades.

13 Sydney beaches, including the iconic Bondi and Bronte, were shut down on Thursday after a swimmer was killed in a shark attack, the first such fatality at the city's beaches in nearly 60 years.

Police believes they have identified the victim, a 35-year-old ocean swimmer who was attacked on Wednesday afternoon off Little Bay beach.

A rescue helicopter and four ambulances were dispatched, but the victim perished after suffering what emergency responders described as "catastrophic injuries".

It was the first fatal shark attack in Sydney since 1963.

"Based on footage provided by the public including eyewitness accounts... shark biologists believe that a White Shark, at least three metres in length, was likely responsible," the state government's Department of Primary Industries said.

Drones scoured the ocean from the air, spotters launched on boats and six drum lines were set to try to catch the creature, which is believed to be at least three metres in length.

Drum lines feature hooks loaded with bait and are used to trap sharks that can then be tagged and moved to deeper ocean away from the coast.

Their use is controversial because hooked animals have been known to die before being moved, and non-target species can become snagged.

READ MORE: Surfer dies after shark attack in Australia

'We all know the risks'

The attack has rocked beach communities in Sydney's east, where being in the water is a part of everyday life.

Each morning before dawn and later as the sun sets, surfers, swimmers and paddleboarders flock to the waves to work out or take a break from the strains of work life.

According to Sports Australia, 4.5 million Aussies swim regularly and at least 500,000 surf.

Whales, dolphins, rays and several species of shark live along the coast and it is not uncommon to spot animals in the water, or to hear the ringing of sharkalarms urging everyone back to the beach.

But most Sydneysiders take the risk in their stride.

"We all know that we take a risk every time we get in the water," said 45-year-old Kim Miller, who took up ocean swimming when she returned to Sydney in 2020. 

An 800-competitor ocean swimming race scheduled for the area on Sunday has been postponed.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies