The general worldwide trend towards more intense utilisation of coastal marine waters for recriational activities has also increased the chances of shark-human interactions with a resulting increase in the number of reported shark encounters. As the population of Australia increases, many more people are entering coastal waters for recreational throughout the year.
Population increase since 1900:
1900 = 3.7 million
1950 = 8.3 million
1990= 17 million
2011 = 22.7 million
2014 = 23.5 million
The Australian Shark Attack File (ASAF) has been recording information on shark encounters for over 32 years with the aim to gather all known information on shark/human encounters in Australian waters, provide source material for research, media and education relating to the trends of attacks on humans and publish analysis of the acquired data. The ASAF is based at Taronga Zoo (Sydney) and works closely with the International Shark Attack File (ISAF).
Encountering a shark is a potential risk whenever someone enters the marine environment and must be acknowledged by people who swim, surf, dive or otherwise use the ocean for recreational activities. There is always a risk in any recreational activity undertaken however, injury or death from a shark bite is very low. In the last 50 years there have been 45 unprovoked fatalities (average of 0.9 per year) from shark encounters in Australian waters. Some years there have been no fatalities recorded and in other years there have been up to 5, but the average remains around one per year. Shark encounters must be put into perspective, on any given summers day there are many thousands of people entering the water at our beaches, harbours and rivers and with an estimated 100,000,000 beach visitation a year (SLSA Newsletter 2010) and the numbers continue to grow with increasing population, it is inevitable someone somewhere will encounter a marine animal (including sharks).
Criteria for inclusion
All reports of ‘shark attacks' are assessed against the ASAF 'Criterial for Inclusion' :
Any human/shark interaction where the person is alive and in the water with the shark 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 water craft where a person is in or on the craft such as a kayak, surfboard or small dinghy.
As part of a world wide study into shark behaviour, analysis of data from the Australian Shark Attack Files may help to identify the existence, or absence, of common factors relating to the cause of shark encounters with humans.
An 'unprovoked' encounter between a human and a shark is defines 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.
Incidents classified as ‘provoked’ are not included in these web pages. A provoked incident relates to circumstances where the person attracts or intiates physical contact with a shark (accidently or on pursose) or was involved in fishing for, spearing, stabbing, feeding, netting or handling a shark, or where the shark was attracted to the victim by commercial diving activities (eg actively collecting abalone, pearls, other marine animals, etc) or by activities such as fishing, spear-fishing and cleaning of captured fish.
More research needed
This ASAF is aimed at understanding and documenting the behaviours of sharks when they interact with humans in their natural environment. This information will contribute to a better understanding of the circumstances surrounding human/shark interactions and may help people stay safe when entering the water. Factual information about these encounters will also assist in the conservation of shark species and their environment through education and support for specific research projects. There is an urgent need to learn much more about the shark's biology and normal behaviour as well as in circumstances of human interaction and more support from governments for research into tracking sharks long-term must be undertaken as soon as possible.
Anyone who has experienced an encounter with a shark in Australian waters can send in an account of their experiences to the Australian Shark Attack File for consideration using the contact details below:
Australian Shark Attack File
P.O. Box 20, Mosman. NSW. 2088