Shark Attacks in Australia

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In Australia there had been a total of 904 unprovoked shark attacks as of 2016, with non-fatal and unprovoked attacks numbering 645 and fatal and unprovoked ones being 259. In 1929, nine people died from unprovoked shark bites in Australia – a record that preceded debate about introducing the first shark nets at Australian beaches several years later. [Source: Global Shark Attack File (GSAF), compiled by the Shark Research Institute,, 2016]

Unprovoked attacks in Australia (attacks on people spearfishing are considered provoked)
2012 — 14 — 2 — 12
2013 — 10 — 2 — 8
2014 — 11 — 2 — 9
2015 — 18 — 1 — 17
2016 — 15 — 2 — 13
2017 — 14 — 1 — 13
2018 — 20 — 1 — 19
2019 — 11 — 0 — 11
2020 — 18 — 6 — 12
2021 — 12 — 3 — 9
TOTAL — 143 — 20 — 123
[Source: Shark Files, Florida Museum of Natural History]

Australians are three times more likely to die from a bee sting than from a shark attack. Nevertheless lots of shark attacks so occur. In the first three months of 1997, there were seven reported shark attacks. Between 1990 and 2007 there were 19 fatal shark attacks in Australia compared to seven in the U.S. In 2015, 33 people were attacked by sharks of all species in the oceans off Australia, according to data from the Taronga Conservation Society Australia.

Australian diver Greg Pickering has the unfortunate distinction of being mauled by a shark two times in nine years. First he was bitten on the leg while spearfishing near Cervantes, Australia in 2004. Then, in October 2013, during another spearfishing trip, he was attacked by a suspected great white, sustaining injuries to his head and face. He was airlifted to a hospital in Perth for treatment.

Websites and Resources: Australian Shark Incident Database, Taronga Conservation Society Australia ; Shark Foundation ; International Shark Attack Files, Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida ; Tracking Sharks, which records all global shark attacks; Animal Diversity Web (ADW); National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); Fishbase ; Encyclopedia of Life ; Smithsonian Oceans Portal

Shark Attacks Trends in Australia — a Decrease of Attacks But Increase in Fatalities

shark attacks in Australia by type of shark as of 2009

John West, of the Taronga Zoo, in Australia and Curator of the Australian Shark Attack File, told the Huffington Post in 2011 that shark attack numbers in Australia increased steadily in the 1990s and 2000s. years. "We are talking about an average of 4.6 cases per year in the 1970's, 6.4 in the 1980's, 8.2 in the 1990's, and 16.1 cases per year in the 2000's."

But since the 1990s shark fatalities have decreased in Australia. In 2022 there was just one fatal shark attack across the country, according to The Australian Shark Incident Database, collated by Sydney’s Taronga Conservation Society. “In terms of the number of fatalities, there are on average between zero and two for the whole of Australia each year,” Prof Culum Brown of Macquarie University said. “It’s rare people get killed.” Brown said the number of shark incidents had risen, with advancements in technology, such as drones, meaning more Australians were likely to spot a shark. “People now see sharks from drones so it gets reported; that’s mainly the reason why the number of incidents is going up,” he said. Macquarie University. “The number of bites has gone up a little bit, but that’s because of the fact many of us live in the cities, by the oceans and increasingly we’re in the ocean year-round now.” [Source: Cait Kelly and Eden Gillespie, The Guardian, February 5, 2023]

There were 56 fatal shark attacks in Australia between 1958 and 2008, which works out to about one a year. A shark reportedly swam near U.S. president Bill Clinton when he went snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef. His press secretary said it did not get too close.

Most Dangerous Places in Australia for Sharks

By some reckonings with the dangerous place for sharks, based on fatal attacks, is the New South Wales north coast. One in six shark attacks have taken place there according to research conducted by Professor Rob Harcourt at the department of Marine Ecology at Macquarie University. [Source: Lauren Ferri, Daily Mail Australia, December 12, 2020]

Sixty-year-old Rob Pedretti died after being attacked at Salt Beach, south of Kingscliff in June 2020. Paul Wilcox was killed near Clarkes Beach at Byron Bay by a great white shark on September 9, 2014. In February 2015, 41-year-old Japanese man Tadashi Nakahara was attacked and killed at Ballina. Six out of seven shark-related deaths in New South Wales between 2010 and 2010 were north of Coffs Harbour.

There was a spate of 11 attacks on the New South Wales far north coast between 2014 and 2016, two of which were fatal, The Daily Telegraph reports. 'We did have a spate of shark attacks up there in 2015, it coincided with cold water upwellings, and the same thing occurred in 2012 and in the same spot, both of those clusters coincided with those cold water upwellings which is why we attribute that to bringing the great whites closer to shore,' Professor Harcourt said. Temperature testing shows there is a current 'cold water upwelling' in northern New South Wales that sits close to the shore.

According to the Daily Mail: Shark attacks along the New South Wales east coast between Wollongong and Newcastle have dropped substantially since mesh nets were introduced. Between the 1910s and 1930 there were 21 fatalities resulting in the installment of shark mesh nets off a number of Sydney beaches in 1937. 'There's no doubt that because we have the shark meshing program with intensive coverage of the beaches between Newcastle and Wollongong there are now low shark numbers,' Prof Harcourt said.Mr Harcout said the meshing definitely helped but other changes such as abattoirs moving out of the ocean have also stopped shark attacks.

The hotspot for attacks in Western Australia is in Esperance in the state's south. There were three fatalities there in 2018, 2019 and 2020, including diver Gary Johnson, 57, who was killed by a great white shark while diving with his wife in January 2020 In Queensland the Whitsundays are the most populous for attacks, as evident in April 2020 when 23-year-old wildlife ranger Zachary Robba was mauled to death. Tiger sharks are more likely in Queensland waters as they will attack in warmer waters.

Historically Port Phillip Bay in Victoria was the state's worst spot, but there has not been a fatality in the state since 1956. Tasmania has not had a fatal attack since 2015, and the Northern Territory has not had a fatal attack since 1937. South Australia has also not had a fatality since 2014.

Shark Attacks in Australia in the 1990s

in May 1999, and in June 1998 men killed while diving for abalone. In February 1999, a surfer in Australia fought off a shark that knocked him off his board and latched onto his arm off Scotts Head, about 400 kilometers (250 miles) north of Sydney. The shark bit a chunk from the surfboard and put the man's entire left hand in its mouth, an ambulance spokeswoman said. But the 35-year-old surfer fought off the shark and swam ashore, where beachgoers took him to the a nearby hospital. He was treated for severed tendons and deep lacerations to his left forearm, said the ambulance spokeswoman. [Source: Associated Press]

In December 1998, a 21-year-old woman was attacked by a shark while surfing at one of South Australia state's most popular surfing beaches. The afternoon attack occurred as the woman was about to catch a wave back to shore at Middleton beach, about 50 miles south of the capital, Adelaide. “She was chest deep in water and she was about to mount her board again and come back into the shore when she felt something knock her leg,'' ambulance spokesman Brenton Scroop said. “She subsequently felt a bite and something thrashing about near her leg.'' The woman suffered deep wounds to one of her legs, but was in satisfactory condition at a local hospital, Scroop said. [Source: Associated Press]

Shark attacks are not uncommon in the Whitsunday islands off of northeast Queensland. In early 1997, an Australian man on his honeymoon and an Italian diver taking an underwater navigation course were both attacked by seven-foot-long sharks. The Italian man said he was warned by his diving instructor. "But when I turned around, I came face to face with a very large shark" he said. Both attack victims some stitching up but otherwise they were okay.

Shark attacks in 1997: 34 in United States; 5 in Australia; 4 in Brazil; 3 each in the Bahamas and South Africa; 2 each in Japan and New Guinea; 1 o Mexico, Fiji, Reunion Island and Vanuatu.

Geographical locations of 1,196 shark bites in Australia. Each shark-bite incident is indicated by a red dot. (a) all shark-bite incidents; (b) bites most likely inflicted by bull sharks, (c) tiger sharks, and (d) white sharks. [Source: Researchgate, Madeline Riley, Phoebe Meagher, Charlie Huveneers, Corey J. A. Bradshaw, Australian Shark-Incident Database, formerly known as the Australian Shark-Attack File, July 2022]

Shark Attacks in Australia in the 2000s

In 2007 there were 13 shark attacks in Australia, compared to 50 in the United States.. Because Australia has bigger sharks that attack humans it has a higher fatality rate. In December 2004, a 38-year-old Australian man died after being attacked by a shark while spear fishing on the Great Barrier Reef near Cairns.

In February 2006, several tourist beaches along Australia's popular Gold Coast were closed because of a massive feeding frenzy involving more than 100 sharks, Associated Press reported: Several beaches in Queensland state were closed for the second straight day after more than 100 hammerhead, gray nurse and whaler sharks were spotted feeding close to shore, said Sue Neil, spokeswoman for Surf Lifesaving Queensland. Neil said most swimmers were staying out of the water, but some surfers were putting themselves at risk by coming within yards of the feeding frenzy. "When they (sharks) feed on the bait fish they do close their eyes and there is a danger of collision," she said. "If they are chomping, they could very easily chomp on humans." [Source: Associated Press, February 13, 2006]

April 2002, a skull and body parts found inside a shark caught off Australia belonged to a fisherman washed off rocks near Sydney two weeks earlier. New South Wales police said the remains were those of a Korean who drowned before he was eaten. In 2003, an 84-year-old man was killed by a shark while swimming in an Australian canal linked to the nearby Pacific Ocean. [Source: Associated Newspapers Ltd., April 24, 2002]

In April 2002, a scallop diver was killed when a shark dragged him from his friend’s arms as he was being pulled into a boat. (See Great White Sharks It was the fifth fatal shark attack in South Australian water between 1998 and 2002 Two surfers were taken on consecutive days in September 2000, a sailboarder was taken [Source: Sam Lienert,Sydney Morning Herald, April 30, 2002]

In March 2000, a surfer was mauled and received a 12-inch gash on his calf by shark on the Gold Coast. It was the first shark attack there in 30 years. The beaches on the Gold Coast have nets to prevent sharks from coming too close to shore. The same month schoolboys rowing a scull were attacked by a six-foot shark in an estuary of Sydney Harbor. The scull was overturned and the boys were able to swim to shore without being attacked. A few days earlier another scull was attacked by a shark in the same area. Before that a man was bitten on the leg by a shark while swimming in the harbor near Mosman.

A similar incident occurred in 2005. Associated Press reported: A three-meter (10 foot) shark attacked a children's regatta in southern Australia in a terrifying incident that could have come from the film Jaws. The shark ripped a hole in an inflatable patrol boat that tried to drive it away, event organisers said. It was spotted swimming in shallow waters where 117 children aged eight to 13 were competing in a regatta in Port Phillip Bay, near Melbourne, in Victoria state. Event organiser Brian Smith said a fleet of inflatable dinghies normally used to ensure safety at the regatta sped toward the shark and attempted to steer it away from the children. "It didn't like being herded away and it came upon one of the patrol boats and bit it," he said. No one was injured and the shark swam away.[Source: Associated Press, January 15, 2005]

[Source: 9News

Bull Shark Attacks in Australia

In March 2011, Dave Pearson was mauled by a bull shark in the waters of Crowdy Head in New South Wales, Australia. The attack left Pearson with partial mobility in his left arm. In February 2009, Australian Navy diver Paul de Gelder lost an arm and a leg to a male bull shark while training with the Royal Australian Navy in Sydney. De Gelder now travels Australia as a motivational speaker; he told People Magazine in 2014 that he's working to combat the popular misconception that sharks are out to get people.

In January 2021, a man was severely injured after being bitten on the leg by a two to three-metre bull shark while swimming in the Swan River in Perth. The Guardian reported: The man in his 50s was attacked at around 8am on Thursday morning at Blackwall Reach, a popular swimming area south of Perth known for its limestone cliffs. [Source: Naaman Zhou, The Guardian, January 14, 2021]

In May 2006, a 21-year-old woman was fatally mauled by as many as three sharks in a regular shark-feeding area off North Stradbroke Island in Queensland, 30 kilometers southeast of Brisbane. The Age reported: Sarah Whiley was swimming with friends at Amity Point when she was mauled to death in a frenzied attack by up to three sharks. Despite the efforts of rescuers, she died later that night at Brisbanes Princess Alexandra Hospital from shock and massive blood loss. Police yesterday indicated they believed a pack of bull sharks was responsible for the horrific attack. [Source: The Age, January 14, 2006]

Tiger Shark Attacks in Australia

On November 22, 2020, 59-year-old Charles Cernobori was killed by a four-meters (13-foot) suspected tiger shark while bodyboarding two kilometers north of the main tourist section of Cable Beach, West Australia. He worked at a Cable Beach hotel and was familiar with the seas in the area. On November 22, 2020, on Cable Beach, West Australia, Charles Cernobori, 59, who worked at a Cable Beach hotel was killed by a four- meter suspected tiger shark while bodyboarding two kilometers north of the main tourist section. [Source: Lauren Ferri, Daily Mail Australia, December 12, 2020]

Tiger sharks are more likely in Queensland waters as they will attack in warmer waters.In December 2004, a man was killed by what was thought to be a tiger shark of bronze whaler while spearfishing at Opal Reef on the Great Barrier Reef near the Yorkeys Knob area, north of Cairns. The Lancashire Telegraph reported: Mark Thompson, 38, suffered massive blood loss, caused by deep leg wounds, and a cardiac arrest after being attacked by the shark off the Queensland coast. A police spokesman said he was around 15metres from the boat when the shark, believed to be a tiger shark, attacked. Friends dragged him out of the water but he died soon afterwards. His body was taken back to shore by a rescue helicopter scrambled to the scene. [Source: Lancashire Telegraph, December 17, 2004]

Friend Michael Sims said he had introduced Mr Thompson to spearfishing - which involves fishermen entering the water and using small harpoon-like instruments to catch big fish. "He had only just come back from one trip away. He used to go out heaps. "He loved spearfishing and took to it right away." Les Marsh, owner of a charter fishing company based in the area, said: "Mark regularly went spearfishing on that reef. Everybody is so upset by what happened."

Shark Attacks at Great Barrier Reef

In April 2020, 23-year-old wildlife ranger, Zachary Robba died after sustaining injuries to his hand, leg and elbow in a ‘horrific’ attack off the Great Barrier Reef near North West Island in Queensland. Australia Associated Press reported: The man was in the water returning to a charter vessel with others when he was attacked. A doctor and paramedics sent to the scene fought hard to stabilise the man so he could be flown to the Gladstone hospital for surgery. But he died from leg and arm injuries. Police said it was “not a social swim”, indicating he had died in the course of doing his job. A report will be prepared for the coroner. [Source: Australian Associated Press, April 7 Apr 2020]

In early January 2020 a nine-year-old girl was attacked by a shark off the same island. She suffered a bite wound to the back of her leg and puncture wounds to her foot. A lemon shark was suspected of that attack. And in late December 2019 a shovelnose shark bit a man in shallow waters at North West Island. He suffered minor injuries to his right hand and leg.

There was been a series of shark attacks on the Great Barrier Reef in 2018 and 2019. In October 2019, two British backpackers were attacked while snorkelling at Hook Island in the Whitsunday Islands. One of the men lost his foot. In March, 2019 a 25-year-old man suffered serious thigh injuries when a shark attacked him at Hardy Reef, near Hamilton Island, also in the Whitsundays chain. In November 2018 a Victorian doctor, Daniel Christidis, 33, was killed at Cid Harbour at Whitsunday Island.

In October 2020, a man was in critical condition after shark attack on the Great Barrier Reef north of Townsville, Queensland. Australian Associated Press reported: He was airlifted to Townsville University hospital after being bitten at Britomart Reef around 12.20pm on Sunday. The area, off the north Queensland coast about 150 kilometers north of Townsville, is a popular spear-fishing location.

See Tiger Shark Attacks Above

Shark Kills Swimmer in Sydney — First Fatal Attack There Since 1963

In February 2022, a large shark killed a swimmer off a Sydney beach in the city's first fatal attack in nearly 60 years, causing "catastrophic injuries", police and ambulance services said. Reuters reported: “Witnesses told local television they had seen the attack on a swimmer wearing a wetsuit."Some guy was swimming and a shark came and attacked him vertically," witness Kris Linto, told Nine. "We heard a yell and turned around it looked like a car had landed in the water, a big splash then the shark was chomping at the body and there was blood everywhere."[Source: Reuters, February 16, 2022]

“It was the first fatal shark attack in Sydney since 1963, data shows. Another witness estimated the shark was 4.5 meters in size. "When he went down there were so many splashes," the witness, who had been fishing on rocks nearby told ABC. Emergency services were called at around 4:35 p.m. to Buchan Point, Malabar, in Sydney's east, New South Wales police said.

It said the Little Bay Beach has been closed. "Officers attached to Eastern Beaches Police Area Command, with assistance from the Marine Area Command and Surf Life Saving New South Wales, attended and located human remains in the water," it said. “A New South Wales Ambulance spokeswoman said paramedics were called to Little Bay, "unfortunately this patient had suffered catastrophic injuries and there was nothing paramedics could do."

In February 2009, a swimmer was attacked by a small shark at Sydney’s Bondi beach for the first time in 70 years. Reuters reported: Scott Wright, 34, was swimming at the south end of the beach on Friday evening when a small shark bit his arm, leaving him with deep gouges, local newspapers reported. Wright, a tourist from the southern island state of Tasmania, made his way ashore before passing out in a cliff cave that he was living in temporarily while in Sydney. Wright was found by his girlfriend on Saturday morning. "The shark attacked me, grabbed hold of my arm and wouldn't let go. So I ended up punching him in the nose and trying to fight him off," he told local television. "I thought I was a goner. I thought I was gonna die." Lifeguards said while sharks were often seen in deeper waters offshore, they rarely made it through protective net barriers to threaten swimmers. "He went swimming in the dark, which we strongly discourage," lifeguard Ryan Clark told the Sun-Herald newspaper. [Source: Reuters, February 18 2009]

Three Shark Attacks in Australia in Three Weeks — in 2012

In January 2012, an Australian swimmer was recovering in hospital after being attacked by a tiger shark. Two days before there was another shark attack and two weeks before that another. reported: The 26-year-old man was snorkelling in a lagoon in Western Australia's Coral Bay when the 3 meters (10 foot) shark bit into his arm, leaving him with severe wounds. Royal Flying Doctor Service spokeswoman Joanne Hill said a doctor was assessing him, but his injuries were not life threatening and he was in a stable condition. The man, who is a tour operator, was due to be flown to Perth for further treatment. [Source:, January 19, 2012]

The attack comes a day after a surfer was bitten by a shark at a beach near Newcastle on the east coast, in scenes witnesses said were "like Jaws". Tattoo artist Glen Folkard, 44, was catching waves off Redhead Beach when a 2 meters (6.5ft) shark, thought to be a bull shark, attacked him in front of dozens of stunned swimmers. Witnesses said the animal took a large chunk out of Mr Folkard's thigh as well as his board before dragging him under the water. He managed to shake himself free and, with the help of fellow surfers, paddled back to shore trailing blood as the shark circled. He was then taken to hospital where he is said to be stable after surgery.

Even though Redhead Beach is "netted", lifeguards have not confirmed whether there were shark nets in the water at the time of the attack. "It was kind of like Jaws, you know, the scene at the start... where everybody's pulled out of the water and it's a hot day and the water's inviting," a witness, named only as Peter, told the Sydney Morning Herald. "His (Folkard's) skin was really grey, he obviously lost quite a lot of blood." Another witness, Tony James, added: "It's just hit him and took him under for a bit. He's managed to get to the surface but I saw it start to follow him."

Around 500 people were on the popular family beach at the time, with about 100 in the water, according to reports. Rescue helicopters conducting air patrols spotted several large groups of sharks nearby and beaches in the area were closed. They reopened less than 24 hours laterBut they reopened less than 24 hours later, although jet ski and helicopter patrols were continuing, as the schools of baitfish that are thought to have drawn the sharks close to shore moved further out to sea.

On January 3 another surfer — a 28-year-old man — survived after being was bitten on the arm by a shark off North Avoca beach, 47 miles north of Sydney. The man was surfing in the early evening when he felt his arm being dragged under his surfboard. "[I saw] a woman screaming out to another surfer to get out of the water, that there's a shark. I had not realised yet that a shark had actually bitten a surfer," said Jack Gencherwho was at the beach at the time. "I see two to three people surrounding a man on the sand, and then I come closer and I see there's blood all over the man's surfboard and on the sand." "The shark got on his board and his arm was up and the shark just took a chunk out of his arm," said Adam Harpaz another witness to the attack. The victim was taken to Gosford Hospital and was in stable condition, after suffering from wounds that the ambulance service described as a five-centimeter (two-inch) cut to his right arm, and a puncture wound to his wrist.

Six Fatal Shark Attacks in Australia in One Year — in 2014-201

In February 2015, a surfer has died after losing both legs in a shark attack off the northern New South Wales coast, the second incident in as many days in the area. Associated Press reported: Tadashi Nakahara, 41, was pulled from the surf at Shelly beach, a popular tourist spot in Ballina, at around 10am. He was given first aid but died on the scene. It was the third fatal attack in New South Wales in the past 12 months and the sixth in Australia. [Source: Michael Safi, Associated Press, February 9, 2015]

According to a local surfer, Allan Baldock, witnesses saw the shark appear to swim past others in the water to attack Nakahara, who was sitting on his surfboard about 10 meters from the beach. “It went whack and he was thrown into the air ... it must have been a huge, huge shark,” Baldock told Guardian Australia. Friends of the man, a Japanese national who had lived in the area for the past year, told a local cafe owner, named only as Karen, that the shark came out from nowhere. “It just came up between a bunch of surfers,” she said. “They weren’t even that far out.”

Meanwhile another surfer is recovering in hospital after sustaining cuts to his lower back in a suspected shark attack on Sunday at nearby Seven Mile beach, close to Byron Bay. The 35-year-old was sitting on his board about 60 meters off the shore early on Sunday morning when he was struck from behind. Neither he nor a friend saw what had attacked him. “I saw blood and I thought I’d better get back to shore,” he told the Seven Network.

Recent attacks are averaging far above the average rate of one fatality per year. In New South Wales, a British man was killed at Byron Bay in September and a 63-year-old woman was killed at Tathra in April. In December, two teenagers were killed by sharks — one in Western Australia and another in Queensland. In South Australia, a man was killed while spearfishing in February last year.

Several beaches were also shut last week in Newcastle, on the state’s central coast, after lifeguards spotted a 1.8-meter shark near Bar beach. The previous day a body surfer had emerged from another Newcastle beach, Merewether, bleeding from five puncture wounds to the left ankle sustained by a juvenile shark bite. Newcastle’s beaches were closed for a record nine days in January after a spate of shark sightings, including a five-meter great white nicknamed Bruce. A similar cluster of shark encounters gripped Australia’s west coast one year ago after three people were killed in the water.

Eight People Killed by Sharks in Australia in 2020

According to the Australian Shark Attack File, compiled by Taronga Zoo, eight people were killed in unprovoked shark attacks in Australia in 2020, the most since 1934. According to the Daily Mail: Surfer Mani Hart-Deville, 15, was catching waves when he was killed by a suspected great white shark at Wooli Beach, near Grafton on the New South Wales North Coast in July 2020. The most recent fatal killing in the area was 60-year-old Rob Pedretti who died after being attacked at Salt Beach, south of Kingscliff in June this year. [Source: Lauren Ferri, Daily Mail Australia, December 12, 2020]

On January 5, Diver Gary Johnson, 57, was killed by a great white shark while diving with his wife near Esperance in West Australia. On April 6, wildlife ranger Zachary Robba, 23, was then mauled to death by a shark while swimming off the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland On June 7, surfer Rob Pedretti, 60, was killed by a great white shark while he was boarding at Salt Beach near Kingscliff in far northern New South Wales.

On July 4, spearfisher Matthew Tratt, 36, was mauled to death by a suspected great white shark in a 'provoked' attack on Fraser Island in Queensland. While surfing is not considered provoking a shark, spearfishing is as the release of fish blood can attract sharks. On July 11, surfer Mani Hart-Deville, 15, was boarding when he was killed by a suspected great white shark at Wooli Beach, near Grafton on the New South Wales North Coast

On September 8, surfer Nick Slater, 46, was mauled to death by a suspected great white at Greenmount Beach on the Gold Coast On October 9, father-of-two Andrew Sharpe was killed by a shark while surfing at Kelp Beds in Wylie Bay, near Esperance on West Australia’s south coast On November 22, on Cable Beach, West Australia, Charles Cernobori, 59, who worked at a Cable Beach hotel was killed by a 4 meters suspected tiger shark while bodyboarding two kilometers north of the main tourist section

Professor Rob Harcourt at the department of Marine Ecology at Macquarie University said great white sharks favour cold water, which could be pushing them closer to swimmers and surfers. 'It is full of nutrients and that concentrates a lot of fish so sharks come in to feed on those fish in those cold water upwellings and whites will come in with that,' he said.

Shark Bites Legs off and Kills Bodyboarder in Southwest Australia

In September 2011, a shark bit the legs off a bodyboarder at a popular surfing spot in western Australia, killing the man, police said. Authories were reportedly searching for the shark as well as the man's missing limbs. The man in his early 20s was bodyboarding with five friends when the shark attacked, a police spokesman said.[Source: Associated Press, September 4, 2011]

He died at the scene in the surfing haven known as The Farm, off Bunker Bay near the western town of Dunsborough, about 200 kilometers south of Perth. The beach was closed after the attack. About 30 surfers were in the water when the shark attacked, according to beachside cafe employee, Deb Pickett, who called police and an ambulance after hearing the disturbance.

"We had some sharks spotted far out at sea a few months ago, but they never come this close to the shore," Pickett said. She added that helicopters were still searching the area for the shark late while rescue staff searched for the man's arms and legs, which she believed had been taken by the shark. Local official Ian Stubbs says it was the first shark attack in the area for more than 20 years.

Surfer Swims Back to Shore with Both Legs Mauled by Shark

In April 2018, a surfer was mauled by a shark off southwestern Australia. He suffered serious injuries to both his legs but managed to make it to shore and survived. Associated Press reported; A surfer mauled by a shark off southwestern Australia managed to swim to shore despite serious injuries to both of his legs, an official and a witness said. Alejandro Travaglini was surfing at Gracetown around 8 a.m. when he was attacked, St. John Ambulance spokesman Dennis Bertoldo said. [Source: Associated Press, News, April 16, 2018]

The Argentinian-born 37-year-old was treated on the beach by paramedics before he was flown by helicopter 160 miles to a hospital in the city of Perth, Bertoldo said. The hospital described the victim's condition as stable. The attack prompted the World Surf League to postpone the nearby Margaret River Pro international surfing contest for about an hour. Organizers had deployed additional shark-spotting drones and jet skis when the competition resumed to ensure competitors' safety, league deputy commissioner Jessi Miley-Dyer said. "We wanted to reconvene and make sure we had everything possible in the water to look after those surfers," Miley-Dyer said in a statement on the league's website.

Surf photographer Peter Jovic watched the attack from the beach and likened it to the live broadcast of a shark attack in South Africa in 2015. Former champion surfer Mick Fanning escaped unscathed when a great white attacked his board as he waited to catch a wave. "If anyone is familiar with the Mick Fanning moment ... it was very similar to that, where a shark pretty much popped up and ended up knocking a surfer off his board," Jovic told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio. "The surfer who was being attacked ended up miraculously body surfing into a little wave and getting pushed in by a local at the same time, who was out there with him, and making it to shore before everyone came to his aid," Jovic said.

Lifeguards said a 13-foot shark was spotted off a nearby beach two hours after the attack. Nine Network television news reported a 41-year-old surfer sustained a large gash to his right thigh from a shark later at a beach near where the attack occurred. "Happy to be alive," the unnamed man told bystanders who asked if he was OK. The man insisted he could drive himself to a hospital. A surfer was killed by a shark at Gracetown in 2013.

Surfers Fights off Shark Attacks and Keep on Surfing

In April 2005 A surfer in Australia fought off a two-meter (seven foot) shark with his board — and then continued surfing. Associated Press reported: Simon Letch returned to Sydney’s Bronte Beach 30 minutes after surviving the attack, despite the beach being closed because of the danger, lifeguard Aaron Graham said. “He was pretty calm about it, very laid back,” said Graham, who was on the beach when the 40-year-old surfer rode his damaged board back in after the attack. [Source: Associated Press, April 17, 2005]

Letch was sitting on his board about 30 meters (100 feet) offshore when the shark attacked. He told a newspaper that he rammed the board, a recent 40th birthday present from his girlfriend, into the shark’s mouth. He said it was a bronze whaler. “I shoved the board at it like a barge pole,” Sydney’s The Sunday Telegraph quoted him as saying.

He said the shark released the board and he quickly headed for shore. “It was only about 10 or 15 seconds that I was waiting for a wave but it seemed like an eternity,” he told the newspaper. “You think you’d go to jelly when something like this happens but I was surprisingly calm.”

The shark took two bites of the fiberglass board before stopping the attack, Graham told The Associated Press. “There were two big puncture mark bites on the board, but it didn’t actually bite a hunk out of it so he was able to ride it in,” Graham said He came back 30 minutes later to surf with a replacement board, Graham said.

In December 2011, 50-year-old Stephen King was sent flying into the air when a shark took a bite out of his surfboard near Yamba on the New South Wales mid north coast but escaped with a few scratches. He said he was the "luckiest guy on two legs". The Sydney Morning Herald reported: Mr King was knocked off his surfboard while he was surfing off Back Beach at Angourie, near Yamba, about 6:00am. "Just as I was taking off, just jumping up, there was just a bang from the side," Mr King told Channel Nine. "I went cartwheeling through the air and then there was just thrashing beside me... There's just a couple of grazes on my leg. Yeah, unbelievable." Police said Mr King and his 33-year-old friend came to shore after the close encounter and it was only then they saw a large chunk bitten off his yellow surfboard. Mr King treated himself at home for scratches on his thigh, police said. Mr King's wife, Julia said: "Very relieved, very relieved. We're all lucky that Steve's with us."[Source: Sydney Morning Herald, December 12, 2011]

Efforts to Reduce Shark Attacks in Australia

In Australia, lifeguards on towers and spotters in planes keep an eye out for sharks in water. A green flag on the lifeguard tower means everything is safe. Red and white flag means a shark has been spotted. If someone is attacked rescues are made with helicopters and the famous Austalian lifeguard rowboats.

Many beaches in Australia and South Africa are protected from sharks with nets. Before nets were installed Australia it lead the world in reported shark attacks. In the seven years before nets were installed there were ten positively identified shark attacks, seven of them fatal, and least ten probable attacks. Since the nets were first laid in 1937 there hasn't been one shark fatality on a netted beach.

One method used to deter sharks in Australia

In some places jet ski riders monitor the movements of large shark to shore near where surfers and swimmers gather. In Perth, Australia, low-flying single-engine planes are used to scan 50 kilometer (31 miles) section of beach. They are linked by radio to beach-based lifesavers, who also look out for sharks. In November 2000, after a 49-year-old father of three was killed by a massive great white shark authorities Perth considered investing in a multi-million dollar sonar system to detect movements of big fish through sonar beams. The system, developed by a Canadian company, is regarded as environmentally-friendly than nets and could be used in conjunction with beach aerial patrols..

According to Reuters: The New South Wales state government has spent millions of dollars on technology in an attempt to reduce shark attacks along its coast amid public concern, deploying nets at 51 beaches, as well as drones and shark listening stations that can track white sharks by satellite and send an alert when one is sighted. [Source: Reuters, February 16, 2022]

After a cluster of attacks in West Australia, the state government there responded by laying baited hooks near popular beaches, prompting nationwide protests and international outrage. Such groups have also complained about shark nets designed to keep the predators away. Studies suggest the nets, which mostly kill “non-target” animals such as turtles, dugongs and dolphins, have done little to stop human fatalities. [Source: Michael Safi, Associated Press, February 9, 2015]

Daniel Bucher, a shark expert at Southern Cross University, warned against a shark panic in the wake of the attacks. He said sharks traditionally made their way down the east coast during the summer. “Generally there are more sightings when the water’s warm, and that’s because the sharks hunt more actively, because they have higher metabolic rates,” he said. Nonetheless, he said shark attack rates had remained relatively stable in the past 20 years, even as Australia’s population and tourist numbers had soared.“You would presume the number of people in the water would also have increased, yet the number of people interacting with sharks hasn’t changed. That suggests the number of sharks in the water has actually gone down,” he said.

Image Sources: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); Wikimedia Commons, International Shark Attack File, Australia First Aid, Queensland government, New South Wales government and West Australia government

Text Sources: Shark Files, Florida Museum of Natural History, Global Shark Attack File (GSAF), National Geographic, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Natural History magazine, Discover magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides and various books and other publications.

Last updated March 2023

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