Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences
RESEARCH ARTICLE (Open Access)

Changing patterns of shark attacks in Australian waters

John G. West
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

Coordinator, Australian Shark Attack File, Taronga Conservation Society Australia, PO Box 20, Mosman, NSW 2088, Australia. Email: jwest@zoo.nsw.gov.au

Marine and Freshwater Research 62(6) 744-754 https://doi.org/10.1071/MF10181
Submitted: 2 July 2010  Accepted: 7 March 2011   Published: 24 June 2011

Abstract

Although infrequent, shark attacks attract a high level of public and media interest, and often have serious consequences for those attacked. Data from the Australian Shark Attack File were examined to determine trends in unprovoked shark attacks since 1900, particularly over the past two decades. The way people use the ocean has changed over time. The rise in Australian shark attacks, from an average of 6.5 incidents per year in 1990–2000, to 15 incidents per year over the past decade, coincides with an increasing human population, more people visiting beaches, a rise in the popularity of water-based fitness and recreational activities and people accessing previously isolated coastal areas. There is no evidence of increasing shark numbers that would influence the rise of attacks in Australian waters. The risk of a fatality from shark attack in Australia remains low, with an average of 1.1 fatalities year–1 over the past 20 years. The increase in shark attacks over the past two decades is consistent with international statistics of shark attacks increasing annually because of the greater numbers of people in the water.

Additional keywords: beach recreation, bull shark, marine, ocean swimming, shark biology, swimmer safety, tiger shark, whaler, white shark, wobbegong.


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