Qld’s grim status as fatal shark attack capital of world

 

Most of the world's fatal shark attacks in 2020 happened in Australia, and nearly half of those in Queensland, according to an international study compiled by the University of Florida.

The university, through its International Shark Attack File, found that although shark attacks continued to decline, 2020 was the deadliest year since 2013, with 10 unprovoked bites resulting in death.

Six of those occurred in Australia, three in the US and one in the Caribbean.

 

Shark attack victim Matthew Tratt with wife Kayla
Shark attack victim Matthew Tratt with wife Kayla

 

The US recorded the highest number of attacks overall, with 33 people bitten.

Australian recorded eight fatal shark attacks in total, but two are considered "provoked" - meaning the victim attracted or initiated contact with the animal in some way, whether accidental or otherwise.

This might include spearfishing, attempting to feed a shark or unhooking a shark from a net.

A beach closed signs at the scene of a fatal shark attack at Greenmount, Coolangatta
A beach closed signs at the scene of a fatal shark attack at Greenmount, Coolangatta

Queensland had three deaths, although one was considered provoked.

The study also found great white sharks were responsible for 16 unprovoked attacks, including six of the 10 deaths.

Of those, four were in Australia, one in California and one in Maine.

Tiger sharks were responsible for two deaths and two others could not be attributed to any species, according to the report.

Gavin Naylor, director of the Florida Museum of Natural History, said scientists needed to explore long term trends rather than resort to "speculation".

"I think the frequency of white sharks swimming in the same places as humans may be on the rise, but if so, we don't yet know the cause," he said.

Friends farewelled Nick Slater during a paddle out in Newcastle.
Friends farewelled Nick Slater during a paddle out in Newcastle.

Mr Naylor said the size and power of a great white meant it was more likely to be involved in serious or fatal attacks.

"A blacktip can give you four stitches, while a nibble from a white shark can remove your leg," he said.

"They're supremely better swimmers than humans and they've got a nasty set of choppers at the front."

He said most sharks that attack are likely to have mistaken a human for fish, seals or other animals.

 

Flowers left at Greenmount Beach for Nick Slater
Flowers left at Greenmount Beach for Nick Slater

 

Mr Naylor said drone footage of sharks - including great whites - circling surfers before cruising away showed it was unlikely they actively hunted humans.

"They're normally more curious than anything else," he said.

The Taronga Conservation Society's Australian Shark Attack File put the number of fatal bites in Australia at eight for 2020, with only one considered to be provoked.

A total of 26 attacks were recorded as happening in Australian waters throughout the year, including 11 injuries and seven people who were uninjured despite the encounter.

Gold Coast shark attack victim Nick Slater had a love of surfing.
Gold Coast shark attack victim Nick Slater had a love of surfing.

Wildlife ranger Zachary Robba, 23, was killed in April while swimming off North West Island, at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef.

In July, 36-year-old Matthew Tratt, a father of two, was fatally mauled while spearfishing off Fraser Island. Two months later, real estate agent Nick Slater was killed by a shark while surfing at Greenmount Beach, Coolangatta.

 

 

Zach Robba was killed in a shark attack off North West Island.
Zach Robba was killed in a shark attack off North West Island.

 

Originally published as Qld's grim status as fatal shark attack capital of world



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