All shark attack cases that are reported to the Australian Shark Attack File undergo a comprehensive review of the circumstances and available details. Formal investigations are undertaken by qualified biologists and, where possible, questionnaires are sent to the victim or witnesses and official reports are gathered, making the File as comprehensive and accurate as possible.
All cases that meet the 'criteria for inclusion' are classified as either 'provoked' or 'unprovoked'. As information is gathered through ongoing research, the details on any case are updated to reflect the new information.
The Australian Shark Attack File advises State and Federal authorities and the general public about shark attack risks, receiving more than 100 information requests each year, and works closely with the International Shark Attack File (ISAF) based in the USA.
Criteria for inclusion
All reports of ‘shark attacks’ in Australian waters are assessed against the following criteria for inclusion.
Any human/shark interaction where the person is alive and in the water at the time of the incident, and:
- there is a determined attempt by a shark to bite a person, or
- injury is inflicted by a shark during an attempt to bite a person, or
- imminent contact was averted by diversionary action by the victim or others (no injury to the human occurs), or
- the equipment worn or held by a person is bitten or damaged by a shark during an attempt to bite, or
- there is a shark bite to a small watercraft where a person is in or on the craft such as a kayak, surfboard or small dinghy
An ‘unprovoked’ encounter between a human and a shark is defined as an incident where a shark is in its natural habitat and has made a determined attempt to bite a human where that person is not engaged in provocative activities.
A ‘provoked’ incident relates to circumstances where the person attracts or initiates physical contact with a shark (accidentally or on purpose) or was fishing for, spearing, stabbing, feeding, netting or handling a shark or where the shark was attracted to the victim by activities such as fishing, spear-fishing, commercial diving activities (actively collecting abalone, pearl shells, or other marine animals) and cleaning of captured fish.