Shark Attacks in the Pacific

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There have been a significant number of shark attacks in Papua New Guinea, Fiji and New Caledonia

Most shark attack in the western south Pacific (not including Australia) occurred in Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, Fiji and New Caledonia.
Papua New Guinea: 118 unprovoked shark attacks, with 63 non-fatal attacks and 55 fatal attacks.
New Zealand: 79 unprovoked shark attacks, with 55 non-fatal attacks and 24 fatal attacks.
Fiji: 58 unprovoked shark attacks, with 36 non-fatal attacks and 22 fatal attacks.
New Caledonia: 46 unprovoked shark attacks, with 31 non-fatal attacks and 15 fatal attacks.
Solomon Islands: 20 unprovoked shark attacks, with 12 non-fatal attacks and eight fatal attacks.
French Polynesia: 18 unprovoked shark attacks, with 16 non-fatal attacks and two fatal attacks.
Vanuatu : 12 unprovoked shark attacks, with three non-fatal attacks and nine fatal attacks.
[Source: Global Shark Attack File (GSAF), compiled by the Shark Research Institute,, 2016]

Tonga: 12 unprovoked shark attacks, with eight non-fatal attacks and four fatal attacks.
Marshall Islands: 11 unprovoked shark attacks, with nine non-fatal attacks and two fatal attacks.
Samoa: six unprovoked shark attacks, with four non-fatal attacks and two fatal attacks.
Micronesia: four unprovoked shark attacks, with four non-fatal attacks and zero fatal attacks.

Palau: four unprovoked shark attacks, with four non-fatal attacks and zero fatal attacks.
Kiribati: four unprovoked shark attacks, with two non-fatal attacks and two fatal attacks.
American Samoa: three unprovoked shark attacks, with zero non-fatal attacks and three fatal attacks.
Guam: two unprovoked shark attacks, with one non-fatal attack and one fatal attack.
Cook Islands: zero unprovoked shark attacks.
Tuvalu: zero unprovoked shark attacks.

Websites and Resources: 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 in World War II and the Indianapolis Story

Shark attacks in Pacific nations and territories as of 2007

Some of the most brutal shark attacks occurred during World War II when survivors of torpedoed ships and crashed airplanes were gobbled up in mass attacks. One Canadian plane that crashed in the sea was labeled unapproachable by a rescue team who arrived within an hour of the mishap because of "too many aggressive sharks."

The 1945, at the end of World War II the destroyer the USS Indianapolis was sunk in the Philippines Sea by a Japanese torpedo. The incident was recounted in a story told by Richard Shaw in the film “Jaws”. The ship sunk in 12 minutes. Of the 1,200 on aboard 880 went into the water. It was five days before help showed up. Survivors were harassed bitten and killed by hundreds of sharks. Only 317 people survived. Half the corpses pulled for the water had been eaten by sharks. However, most victims died of injuries incurred during the explosion, drowning, exposure of dehydration not shark attacks. Those that were eaten were likely already dead when the sharks began attacking them.

The story was recalled in “Ocean of Fear”, a two-hour program shown for the first time on the Discovery Channel in 2007. In many cases sharks were least of their worries of survivors as they bobbed in the sea for five days, without food and water. To keep their faces from blistering in the sun they dabbed split oil on themselves. They made makeshift visors to keep their corneas from burning and pleaded with desperate comrades not to drink the salt water. Some took their own lives after succumbing to delusions, madness and desperation.

Shark Attacks in Fiji

According to have been a total of 62 shark attacks in Fiji, with 22 of them being fatal. This works out to a fatal attack rate of 35.5 percent. A total of 56 attacks were unprovoked while six were provoked by humans.

On a 1978 attack, the Fiji Times reported: Laisenia Sau of Malake Island, off Rakiraki, said a 6 feet shark came after a small fish he was holding in his hand. He and another villager were in the water and four other companions were in a boat about two chains away, waiting for the two to signal their pick up. Sau’s companion had speared a fish and passed it to him underwater, and the shark, probably attracted by the scent, lunged towards it and in doing so clamped its jaws partly around Sau’s arm. [Source: Fiji Times, November 14, 2022]

He dropped the fish and the shark disappeared with it. “There was a lot of blood, and a lot of pain,” he said. He was rushed by boat to the nearest road on the mainland, from where a taxi took him to Rakiraki Hospital. After an emergency treatment they sent him to Lautoka Hospital where his arms was stitched. Sau said he knew there were sharks in the waters where he had been fishing, but this was the first time he had been attacked.

Sau said he intended to carry on diving after recovering from a shark bite which left one of his arms a mangled mass of blood and torn flesh. The 32-year-old villager was in satisfactory condition at the Lautoka Hospital when he was being interviewed and recovered after doctors stitched the deep gashes on his left forearm. Sau, who was married with five children, said fishing was his main source of income and he could not afford to give up going to the sea because of the attack.

Shark Attack in Fiji Kills Son of Cricket Legend Minutes After His Wife Died

Australian cricketing legend Sam Loxton was dealt a double blow when his son was killed by shark in Fiji. Fifteen minutes earlier his wife died in a pool accident, in Australia, 2,700 kilometers away. Reuters reported: Loxton's 47-year-old son Michael, bled to death after being attacked by a shark while swimming 50 meters from the shore in Fiji. His 75-year-old second wife was found lying face down in the family's pool on Australia's Gold Coast after apparently falling in after hitting her head.

Michael Loxton bled to death after being mauled by the shark which tore off his right leg and buttocks as he tried to swim ashore from his anchored boat. Injuries to his hands indicated Mr Loxton tried to fight off the shark, said Fijian medical officer Mohammed Ishaque. "His leg had bite marks on it, too, indicating the shark took two bites, one injuring the leg and the next bite taking the entire leg and buttock off. Mr Loxton bled to death within about five minutes", he added.

Family members who had learned of Michael Loxton's death after news of his step-mother's death, didn't tell the elderly cricketing great until later, reports the Australian Herald Sun newspaper. "We didn't think Sam would be able to cope, losing his wife and son on the same day. It's just too horrible to imagine. We didn't want poor Sam to have a heart attack," said a family friend. The newspaper says that Michael was planning to introduce his Fijian wife to his father for the first time. He had been living in Fiji for about 16 years.

Countries and territories in the Pacific

Bronze Whaler Attack in Fiji

Bronze whalers (Carcharhinus brachyurus)are a dangerous and common shark found mostly off Australia and South Africa. They have been involved in a number of attacks. They are known in most places as copper sharks. In 2020, well-known diver in Fiji, Mark Wakeham, was bitten by a bronze whaler shark. The Fiji Times reported: It is believed that a six foot bronze whaler shark bit Mr Wakeham twice while he was free diving after 8am at the Frigate Reef Passage, located at the West end of Beqa. “Mark is a well-known spear fisherman and surfer in the area. He was bitten badly on his right arm,” Pacific Harbour resident Ronnie Hyer said. The shark bit him and it went and came back to bite him again. This hardly happens because on the first bite the shark will know that it is not food and will then go away. “The shark must be really hungry to come back and bite him again on the same arm. There have been several shark bites in the last two years, but it is rarely reported.”[Source: Wati Talebula, Fiji Times, December 2, 2020]

As for the attack, Mr Hyer claims that the shark had attacked Mr Wakeham because there was no shark feeding. Shark feeding in the Beqa waters, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, is a popular attraction for many tourists who visit the country and enjoy diving. Mr Hyer claimed: “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, shark divers are not feeding sharks anymore and I think this is why this attack happened.” However, this was disputed by Aqua-Trek Beqa operations manager, Jona Baro. “Sharks are everywhere and they will only come when we feed them. And for people to say that it is because of us is wrong,” Mr Baro said. “When we are not there, they are hunting food somewhere else, when we are there then they will come.” Beqa Adventure Divers’ operations manager Andrew Cumming labelled the claims as “rubbish”.

Professional diver Captain Jonathan Smith said sharks would move out of their normal hunting grounds when overpopulated. The problem is not only the feeding, but because they have been attracting a lot of sharks and the feeding has stopped there is not enough food for all of them,” he said. “They are used to hand feeding and there was always food for them and now there is no food for them. What makes it worse is that the shark is used to humans. Sharks are generally afraid of humans and these sharks are used to being hand fed. They expect humans to have their food all the time so when they see you, they will come to you for food. I have swum in the harbour with bull sharks and bronze whalers, but they don’t harm us. But when you have food on you, they will come for you.”

University of the South Pacific Head of Marine Science and shark expert Rico Ciro said: “Sharks are predators and if attracted by the movement of the diver, they could potentially attack simply to test if the animal moving, in this case a human, could be a good prey.”

Shark Attacks in Papua New Guinea

In 2000, Reuters reported: A man bled to death and a young boy was badly mauled in two separate shark attacks near a tourist resort in Papua New Guinea, a local newspaper reported. PNG's Post-Courier said the attacks happened late on Long Island near Madang, about 500 kilometers (310 miles) north of the South Pacific nation's capital of Port Moresby. [Source: Reuters, May 10, 2000]

The newspaper said on Tuesday that the local villager died from blood loss not long after he was attacked while diving on a reef just off the island. The nine-year-old boy, identified only as Adam, had his left leg and ankle badly mauled while he was standing in knee-deep water in a different part of the island. He was taken to hospital by a Madang businessman who flew to the island after a radio alert about the attacks. The boy was expected to recover, the paper said. It was not known what kind of sharks made the attacks.

In 1996, several people were killed in a spate of attacks by tiger sharks near Madang. A single tiger shark in Madang Harbour , PNG attacked three people in a single day killing two. Nine days later it attacked and killed another person

PNG Sea Cucumber Divers Killed by Sharks

In October 2020, te PNG Daily reported: Police say a man was killed in a suspected shark attack in Manus while diving for sea cucumber with three friends.Police commander Chief Insp David Yapu said it was the third death at sea connected to the sea cucumber harvesting.“Since the start of the sea cucumber season in August in Manus, a 41-year-old man and two others died while diving,” he said. “It is a risky business but people continue to do it.”[Source: The National, PNG Daily, October 12, 2020]

On Oct 5, the 41-year-old man from Patu village in Pobuma did not return home after he diving for sea cucumber. His body was found on Oct 7 near Patu and Tawi island. On Oct 7, four men from Baluan Island went out diving for sea cucumber near Sibisa Island. One of them was believed to have been attacked by a shark. His body minus his head was found at sea. Yapu said although the sea cucumber season was the only opportunity for the people to sell and earn money for their basic needs, their safety should be paramount.

Bull Shark Attack in Papua New Guinea

On January 21, 2017, Craig DeWit, skipper of the Papua New Guinea-based liveaboard Golden Dawn, was attacked by a 13-foot (4-meter) bull shark while diving in the remote waters of the Torres Strait, between North Queensland and PNG.[Source: Courier Mail, Undercurrent, from the February, 2017]

The Courier Mail reported: It took more than eight hours to get him to a proper hospital for treatment of his severe wounds. "It was a case of mistaken identity," the 54-year-old said, recovering from surgery in Cairns Base Hospital. "It hit me like a truck, it came with such force, out of nowhere. It chomped down, and as it was shaking me I looked into its jaws and eye. It was a big shark." "Its jaws went from my left wrist to the top of my bicep, and into my chest and stomach. I tried to push it away with my right hand, but then it spat me out and swam off. The water was full of blood. I thought I was mortally wounded."

His wife, Camilla, was in the water close by when the attack happened. He suffered injuries to his hand, chest, and stomach. His friend, a trained paramedic who was on board, performed first-aid to stem the bleeding and saved his life. However, it took five hours to reach Murray Island, and bad weather meant it was an additional three hours' wait for a rescue helicopter to evacuate him to the Thursday Island medical center for treatment and then on to Cairns. DeWit has been bitten by a shark before. He says, "Twice bitten, and still not shy. I love sharks; I think they are amazing creatures. The chances of this happening are about the same as being hit by a lightning strike."

PPG Spearfisherman Ripped Apart by Sharks

In December 2019, five spear fishermen watched in horror as around 10 sharks ripped apart their 33-year-old friend Kala Gerea in Abau’s Ragelapara reef in Central Papua New Guinea. Kala Gerea’s family members are planning to return to the tragic scene of the attack to try and recover his remains. [Source: Enamyrea ANI, The National, January 3, 2020]

Dinghy skipper and uncle Bri OleWale said: “We (Gerea, Kilalema Suibu, Willie Va’a, Jackson Wala and Onne Ora) decided to go fishing after lunch at 2pm because the weather was good. At about 4.30pm, Gerea signalled the skippers to get closer to the divers because the current and temperature of the water were good and there were plenty of fish. “Gerea swam to the dinghy and unloaded the fish he speared and then he told me, ‘uncle the current is good so we are going to shoot for more.’“We chatted a little bit before he dived back into the water. Within two minutes, a big shark bit him“It all happened very quickly. Va’a was diving with him, so he knows what actually happened in the water,” he added.

Va’a said he was caught by surprise and shock. “I tried my best to help Gerea but the shark was too big. Gerea dived but I was just floating. He hid and shot a fish. When he reached out for his catch, the shark appeared and ripped off his right arm out. I then tried to distract the shark by slapping the water but the shark did not respond. “When I took aim with my spear gun, the shark swam away in the bloody water with Gerea’s arm in its mouth. That’s the last time I saw Gerea,” he added.Va’a said the shark turned around and headed towards him but “I managed to swim to the dinghy for safety. “The beast was white, big and about five metres long. We went near the spot of the attack but the waters were red with more than 10 sharks circling around. “We were shocked, we didn’t know what to do because we were really scared. I really feel sad and regret for not saving my brother and leaving him like that.”“Now we are not sure if we will go back to that place to get fish or not because we will always be reminded with regret of losing our brother”,Va’a said.

Olewale said, Gerea never came up to the surface, he was eaten up by the sharks around him. He said the Hula fisherman use a very risky fishing technique while catching fish. The technique in Hula language is Kapawalo meaning waist rope. “These technique is used when the fisher man catches a fish, he ties it around his waist and swim up to the dinghy and unloads them.”“The shark attack didn’t take place on the surface of the sea but right beneath the sea while making his way up, and he never came up.“We only found his spear and parts of his clothing”.

Olewale said he was filled with guilt about the shark attack and killing. “Gerea also lost is father in a shark attack 11 years ago. This attack must surely be extremely painful and unforgettable to his mother. “The trip was to get fish for me, so I organised some fuel. I blame myself. If I didn’t organise this trip, then this tragedy would not have occurred,” Olewale said.

Kitesurfers Killed by Sharks in New Caledonia

In September 2016 a shark savaged an Australian kitesurfer to death off New Caledonia, , a French territory east of Australia, in in the second fatal attack in the South Pacific territory in six months, officials said. "The man in his 50s was kitesurfing inside the reef at Koumac. He fell and was bitten," Nicolas Renaud, head of the archipelago's marine rescue coordination centre, told AFP. [Source: AFP, September 6, 2016]

AFP reported: “The unidentified man from Fremantle on Australia's southwest coast was out with several other people on a catamaran, who raised the alarm. A rescue boat was sent to help but emergency crews were unable to save him. "He suffered a deep bite to the thigh from a big shark. We don't know for the moment what species it was," added Renaud. The last fatal shark attack in New Caledonia was in April 2016, when a woman was killed on a beach on Poe in the west of the island group.

In the mid 2010s, a 15-year old male kitesurfer in New Caledonia lost his board and was pulled by the sail along the water surface in a reef passage when a shark attacked. The shark inflicted at least two bites on the left leg, including a severe one around the knee, resulting in a quick hypovolemic shock that was fatal. The analysis of one of these bites indicated that a 2.8 meter tiger shark was responsible for this attack. The features of the attack are consistent with those of a predator response to a surface feeding stimulus. [Source: “Fatal attack by a juvenile tiger shark, Galeocerdo cuvier, on a kitesurfer in New Caledonia (South Pacific)” by Eric Clua, Pierre-Marie Bescond, Dennis Reid, PMID: May 5, 2014]

Swimmer Killed by Sharks in New Caledonia

In February 2023, CNN reported: An Australian tourist has died after being attacked by a shark in waters off New Caledonia according to public broadcaster New Caledonia 1 TV. The 59-year-old man was swimming near a pontoon at Château-Royal beach in the capital Nouméa when a shark attacked him around 4 p.m. local time, New Caledonia 1 reported. Two people rescued the man on a jet-ski and CPR was performed, but he didn’t survive his injuries, according to the broadcaster. In response, authorities closed beaches in Nouméa, a popular destination for international tourists in the French overseas territory. [Source: Kareem El Damanhoury and Mia Alberti, CNN, February 20, 2023

“Swimming and nautical activities are closed in a 300-meter coastal band until further notice,” Nouméa City Council said in a statement. A shark culling was also activated following the attack, New Caledonia 1 added. This was the second attack in less than a month in the same location.In late January, a 49-year-old woman suffered multiple injuries after being attacked by a bull shark while swimming at Château-Royal beach, according to the Global Shark Attack File.

The man was killed while swimming close to a pontoon about 150 metres from the beach in Noumea. He was reportedly bitten several times before being brought to shore where emergency services tried to save him. The man had major bite wounds in his leg and both arms, local prosecutor Yves Dupas told AFP. He died at the scene despite receiving cardiac massage. “It happened so close to shore, the poor victim was face down in the water when the jet ski got to him,” a guest at nearby Hotel Chateau Royal told Daily Mail Australia. “There was blood everywhere, we could see it from the beach. So many people were in the water at the same time and they’d only reopened the beach a few days ago.” A few days later, a shark reportedly charged at a man on a hydrofoil but he made a lucky escape. In the wake of both incidents, locals were surprised the beach was reopened, with some saying they felt it should have stayed closed. [Source:, AFP, February 20, 2023]

Many people were in the water at the time and witnessed the incident at the Chateau-Royal beach just south of Noumea. There was a panicked rush back onto the beach and police evacuated the area. Noumea’s mayor, Sonia Lagarde, ordered the closure of most beaches in the area and the capture of tiger sharks and bull sharks in nearby waters. Drones were deployed to track them and two were sighted before operations were suspended at nightfall, police said.

The shark that killed the 59-year-old Australian tourist may have been attracted to the crowded beach by food tossed into the water from a nearby restaurant’s viewing platform. The place he was killed is close by to a restaurant’s viewing platform — known locally as a “feeding platform” because it is used to feed fish and often attracts sharks.

Vicious New Caledonia Shark Attack Occurred at Same Place as Attack Just Weeks Before

Three weeks before the Australian tourist was killed, people witnessed a horrific shark attack at the same spot. AFP reported: Lance and Jane Rae were on a holiday in Noumea, when on January 29 they opted for a relaxing walk along the beach. Their serenity was suddenly interrupted by “the most awful screams” imaginable coming from the water near the jetty — the same spot where a 59-year-old Australian man was fatally attacked on the weekend. “It was something like you would never want to hear in your life,” Mr Rae told He immediately ran down the jetty and got as close to the screams as he could, and instantly realised his initial suspicion of a drowning was wrong.[Source:, AFP, February 20, 2023]

A shark had viciously attacked 49-year-old local school teacher, Brigitte Soulard. “It was only when I looked down that I realised she had been attacked. She had extensive wounds,” Mr Rae said. A man on a stand-up paddle board was nearby at the time and had managed to pull the woman onto his board. As he paddled her into shore, the “massive” shark swam circles around his board, following the heavy trail of blood.

Mr Rae’s wife Jane Rae and top Australian surgeon Professor Gary Hoffman were waiting in knee-deep water, but the panicked man was worried the shark might attack them. The shark was still circling, and I just thought ‘I’ve got to get them out’,” he said. Police had arrived but no one was helping. I had to run and get clothing to make a tourniquet.” Mr Rae was so terrified the shark would attack someone else that he asked a responding police officer to execute it. “I could see the shark was coming in, and it was really big, so I said to one of police ‘shoot the shark’, but he wouldn’t,” he recalled. I said, ‘give me your gun and I’ll do it’ … it kept coming in and I just couldn’t believe how big it was, but he wouldn’t shoot it.”

Mr Rae managed to grab the front of the paddle board and pull it into the sand, safe from the shark. “It was the most horrific thing. It’s something you wouldn't want to witness,” he said. Given the extent of her injuries, having had a large bite taken from her buttock and losing an enormous volume of blood, he said it was incredible she had survived. Mrs Soulard was understood to have since been transferred to Westmead Private Hospital in Sydney where she has been receiving treatment for her extensive injuries.

Mr Rae was in disbelief at how close in proximity the fatal attack three weeks later was to the tragedy he witnessed. “I was absolutely shocked it happened exactly at the same place, about 20 or 30 metres from where the lady was attacked,” he said. He has advocated for shark threats to be better advertised in high risk areas, particularly those popular with tourists who otherwise would be unaware of the shark attack history. “People value the tourism and shark attacks damage the tourism, but people need to know,” he said.

Shark Attacks in Vanuatu

According to has been a total of 14 shark attacks in Vanuatu. Out of those, nine were fatal (64 percent of them) and 12 attacks were unprovoked while two were provoked by humans.

In 2005, a seven-year-old girl was killed by a shark at a Vanuatu beach with her parents unaware there had been at least one previous attack at the same place. reported: Alysha Margaret Webster, of Whitianga in New Zealand, was killed off Malekula Island in northern Vanuatu, an island known for such attacks. She was on a yachting holiday with her parents, Grant and Sheree Webster. [Source: June 24, 2005]

Vanuatu Daily Post reported local children were swimming in deeper water and felt the shark go past before it attacked the girl. Her left leg was bitten off at the thigh, the newspaper said. She was rushed to Norsup hospital but had lost too much blood and could not be revived. New Zealand high commissioner Paul Willis said the attack was so severe that Alysha would have died quickly. It was customary to check with a local chief or village to see if it was safe to swim in nearby waters. "In this case, I understand there were local people around, so clearly the family might have had some reason to expect it wasn't going to be too dangerous," he said. "Having to watch their daughter die from a shark attack was quite horrendous.

Peter Fidelio, manager of Malekula's Rose Bay Bungalows, said he did not recommend the beach because there had been at least one previous shark attack there. "They came in on a yacht and nobody has told them about anything." It is understood the family had sailed from the Vanuatu capital, Port Vila, to Malekula.

In 1992, another New Zealander was attacked by a shark off Malekula Island. Andrea Rush was swimming alone near an anchored yacht in Port Sandwich when the shark sank its teeth above and below her knee and then "spat her out". She survived. Local yachties say that bay is so notorious for sharks it is marked on maps as an area where people should not swim. Officials have not confirmed what type of shark attacked Alysha but shark expert Mike Bhana said tiger sharks, among the three most dangerous types, swam in those waters.

Shark Attacks in the Solomon Islands

According to There has been a total of 30 shark attacks in the Solomon Islands. Out of those, 12 were fatal (40 percent of them) and 21 attacks were unprovoked while nine were provoked by humans.

In 2010, Benjamin D'Emden, a 34-year-old man from New South Wales was badly injured but survived after being attacked by a shark in the Solomon Islands. The BBC reported: The Department of Foreign Affairs says the attack left the man with cuts to his face and neck while holidaying at a remote island resort. He is being treated in the National Referral Hospital in Honiara. [Source: BBC, September 3, 2010]

Perth Now reported: “A Sydney man stared death in the face when a shark mauled his head while he swam in the Solomon Islands D'Emden was holidaying on a remote island resort when the shark attacked him from below. It bit into his face, leaving Mr D'Emden with severe cuts to his face and neck. He was flown to the capital Honiara's main hospital by an emergency medical charter. Doctors at the National Referral Hospital were last night working to stabilise Mr D'Emden so he could be flown to Australia for emergency treatment. It is understood he had only been in the Solomon Islands a few days and was holidaying with 16 other Australians, including his father, when the attack occurred. [Source: Perth Now News Corp Australia, September 2, 2010]

First Shark Attack in 50 Years on One Solomon Island

In October 2021, Ulawa Island in the Makira Ulawa province experienced its first shark attack in 50 Years. The incident happened at Aosi waters. The Sunday Isles reported: The victim was bitten by the shark on the left leg inflicting serious wounds on his lower leg. Witnesses say that he was diving fish for his community’s handing over ceremony of their water supply and sanitation project funded under the SIRDP cycle four project when this happened. He was rushed to the Taheramo clinic and was flown over to Honiara by helicopter. The victim was now slowly recovering at the National referral hospital. [Source: Lionel Taorao, Sunday Isles, October 23, 2021]

The last shark attack on Ulawa Island resulted in the death of a teacher at the school in Arona in the 1970s who was believed to be killed by his own father to show his black magical powers to his cousin brother who adopted the deceased after a dispute” elders said. “The incident happened when I was a young man and I also saw the deceased when they took him back here at su’umoli for burial”, elder, Mr. Vincent Hiki said.

Mr. Hiki says that the father of the deceased, who is also the last Ulawan to have converted to Christianity, then tour around the Island by sea visiting all the tabu sites making offerings so as to put a stop to all the customary turtle sharks never again to attack anyone in the future. It is this that sparked fear in fishermen and especially those who are currently harvesting beach de mar as there are many rumors also going around about the incident.

Spike in Shark Attacks in French Polynesia

In the early 2020s and late 2010s, French Polynesia recorded an increase in shark attacks. The The rise bucked the global trend of a decrease in attacks during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns. In May 2022, RNZ reported: “A woman was attacked by a shark in Bora Bora, French Polynesia. While not deadly, this is the second shark attack in the archipelago in just two weeks, although there are reports of a third. The La Premiere news agency reports the woman, who was a tourist, was bitten on the hand while taking a boat ride near Motu Tapu Islet, a popular touristic hot spot. It is not known what species of shark it was. The fire brigade were called to the scene and an investigation is in the process.[Source: RNZ, May 12, 2022]

In April 2022, a bodyboarder was attacked by what he believed to be a Tiger shark on the west coast of Tahiti. The wound wasn't severe, however he was sent to hospital and required 10 stitches. The mayor closed the popular surfing spot for the weekend after this attack.

In 2019 a French tourist was severely injured in a rare shark attack off the coast of Tahiti. Newsweek reported: The 35-year-old woman was swimming in the waters off Moorea island on a whale-watching trip on Monday, according to Radio New Zealand, when she was attacked by an oceanic whitetip shark that ripped into her chest and arms. The woman was airlifted to a hospital in Tahiti and was reported to have lost both hands and a lot of blood, according to firefighter Jean-Jacques Riveta. "Luckily for her, there were two nurses on the scene who could deliver first aid," he told AFP. [Source: Soo Kim, Newsweek, October 22, 2019]

Shark attacks are said to be rare in French Polynesia, with only 6 confirmed unprovoked shark attacks reported since 1580, according to the International Shark Attack File (ISAF) of the Florida Museum of Natural History, which claims to be the "world's only scientifically documented, comprehensive database of all known shark attacks."

Speaking to Newsweek, Gavin Naylor, program director of the Florida Program for Shark Research at the Florida Museum of Natural History: "Shark attacks are generally very rare in French Polynesia—which is somewhat surprising to me because there are quite a few tourist operations in Moorea that lure sharks and rays into shallow water with food so that tourists can interact and snorkel with the animals.

"However the majority of sharks involved with these operations are the black tipped reef sharks (Carcharhinus melanopterus). These animals rarely get much larger than 5 or 6 feet long and are rarely responsible for any serious bites on humans." He added: "This sounds like a freak accident to me. The whale-watching/snorkeling tours off Moorea are generally run by very experienced guides. No bait is put in the water and the biggest concern is not to upset the whales. "There are measures that can be taken to minimize the risk of shark bites in the inshore areas, like restricting operations that use bait to lure sharks into shallow water, but there is little that can be done to prevent these freak accidents associated with whale watching [from occurring.]"

New Zealand Teen Fights off Shark with a Boogie Board

In 2010, a teenage New Zealand girl bitten by a shark bashed it over the head with her body board until it let her go, she said. Associated Press reported: Lydia Ward, 14, was in waist-deep water with her brother on Monday at Oreti Beach on the country's South Island when the shark — believed to be a broad-nosed seven gill shark — grabbed her hip. She said she did not notice the shark until the attack was under way. [Source: Associated Press, February 2, 2010]

"I saw my brother's face and turned to the side and saw this large gray thing in the water so I just hit it on the head with a boogie board," Ward told National Radio, adding that she had read about a surfer who fought off a shark attack with her board. "That's what she did, and that's what you're meant to do."

The pair fled from the water after the attack. The girl's mother, Fiona Ward, said the shark's bite had ripped Lydia's wet suit and penetrated her skin, but the teen required no stitches. Conservation Department marine scientist Clinton Duffy said the shark was likely a broad-nosed seven gill shark, a species that grows to up to 10 feet (3 meters) long and that has attacked swimmers at the Oreti Beach in the past.

The last time the species attacked a human at Oreti Beach was in 1999, and the young girl victim required 60 stitches, Duffy said. Lydia, a former competitive swimmer and regular beach swimmer, said she would be sticking to rivers and lakes in the future.

Image Sources: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); Wikimedia Commons, International Shark Attack File

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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