Australian Shark Attack File recorded an average of 15 incidents per year
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 2 January, 2015 - The closure of Bondi Beach after a bull shark sighting on Friday was a timely reminder that while Australians flock to the beach like seagulls, human encounters with the much-feared ocean creature are on the rise. Since 2000 the average number of shark "attacks" a year have more than doubled, partly because the number of people visiting beaches has also increased.
While shark bites are rare and random events, and just below half of all encounters end without injury to the person or shark, there have been a higher number of fatal shark bites in the past year. Last year five people died from shark bites, compared with two people in 2013 and 2012.
Growing populations near coastal areas and improvements to wetsuits and scuba-diving equipment mean swimmers and surfers are spending more time in the water throughout the year.
The Australian Shark Attack File recorded an average of 15 incidents per year between 2000 and 2009, an increase from 6.5 incidents in the decade from 1990. The report classifies "attacks" as any interaction between a person and a shark where the animal attempts to attack the person or their equipment.
The data, collected by John West of the Taronga Conservation Society, shows an increase in the number of incidents in all states since 1900, in line with the country's population growth. The majority of encounters happen on the east coast and near major cities and white, bull and tiger sharks were the three species responsible for fatal shark bites.
Shark bite researcher Chris Neff said although the spate of recent shark-related deaths was "very tragic", more than 80 per cent of shark bites were not fatal. The number of fatal shark bites has fallen from an average of three a year in the 1930s to one a year between 2000 and 2009.
The majority of shark bites in that decade occurred when the victim was surfing.