The victim was out with another person when he was attacked in deep water around 40m off the shore at Cheynes Beach, near Albany, on Western Australia’s south coast.

Dr Rick Fletcher, Department of Fisheries acting director general, told a press conference that the shark appeared to have swum past one of the fishermen before biting the other on the leg, causing fatal injuries.

“It appears it was a very large shark, probably four to five metres, and probably a white shark,” said Dr Fletcher. “It was a large part of his leg and he was a large person, therefore it was a large shark.”

ABC News reported that the boy’s body was brought ashore by a fisherman following Monday’s attack. The victim was confirmed to be dead when police arrived at the scene at around 12.20pm.

The teenager was attacked shortly after children’s holiday swimming classes had finished just 250m away. Beaches in the area were subsequently closed, and local people and holidaymakers urged to stay out of the water.

The incident is the eighth fatal shark attack to take place off the coast of Western Australia in the past five years. In addition, surfer Sean Pollard, 23, lost an arm and his other hand when he was attacked in October near Esperance, around 480km from the scene of the latest tragedy.

Drum lines have been deployed in the area around Cheynes Beach in an attempt to catch the shark involved in the latest incident. It is believed that the fish may itself be injured as a spear was fired at it during the attack.

“At this stage it’s highly likely that if we capture the shark that’s likely to have been involved in the incident it will be destroyed,” said Dr Fletcher.