All shark incident cases that are reported to the Australian Shark-Incident Database 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 Database 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-Incident Database advises State and Federal authorities and the general public about shark incident 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 a shark bite in Australia are assessed against the following criteria for inclusion. Shark-human interactions should be included in the database if they meet all of the following three criteria:
(i) the person is alive at the time of the incident,
(ii) the person is in the water or using a small watercraft (e.g., kayak, surfboard, bodyboard, non-motorised vessel), and
(iii) there is a determined attempt by a shark to bite a person, equipment worn or being used, or the small watercraft.
For the purpose of this database, the interaction should be recorded regardless of whether the bite is successful (i.e., occurs).
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, stabbing, feeding, netting, or handling a shark, or where the shark was attracted to the victim by activities such as fishing, spearfishing (where a fish has already been speared), and cleaning of captured fish. Until 2021, all incidents involving a spearfisher or a commercial diver were categorised as ‘provoked’. Since review of provocation criteria, incidents involving spearfishers will now be classed as ‘provoked’ only if a fish has already been speared. Incidents involving rays are considered out of scope and are not included in the database.