Shark attacks are a common fear at Australian and New Zealand beaches but are rarer than you might expect. Around two to three people are killed by sharks every year in Australia, and there are around 23 shark attacks annually. In New Zealand, attacks are even rarer.
Being aware of the risk factors for shark attacks can help reduce your risk so you can have a fun day out in the water.
Reducing the risk of attacks
Swimmers and Surfers:
Swim at patrolled beaches and stay between the flags. This is the safest place to swim as there are lifeguards there monitoring the beach and water conditions
Pay attention to the advice of lifesavers and signs - as soon as you hear a shark alarm, leave the water
Tell a lifesaver if you see a shark
Stay close to the shore
Stay out of the water with bleeding cuts or wounds
Swim or surf with other people
Avoid swimming at dawn, dusk and night as it is harder to see
Steer clear of murky, dirty water where visibility is poor
Avoid swimming after storms or floods as dead animals may be washed into rivers and seas, attracting sharks
Avoid areas used by recreational or commercial fishers as their bait will attract fish including sharks
Avoid areas with signs of bait fish or fish-feeding activity. Large amounts of seagulls on the water may indicate large schools of fish which will attract sharks.
Dolphins do not indicate the absence of sharks - they both often feed on the same food. There is little evidence they will protect humans from shark attacks.
Do not take your pets with you in the water
Keep away from shark nets and other shark mitigation measures
Divers, Snorkellers and Spearfishers:
Understand and respect the environment — find out which species you are most likely to come across
Remember that diver safety becomes difficult with decreasing visibility — don't dive in murky water
Discuss dive logistics and contingency plans with your dive partner
Remember that using bait to lure fish can lure bigger fish (i.e. sharks)
Observe and respond to the shark’s behaviour — if it appears excited or agitated (e.g. quick, jerking movements) leave the water as quickly and calmly as possible, minimising splash.
Shark safety resources
Stay safe with the SharkSmart app - has the latest sightings and tagged shark detections
Shark safety information and map of shark control equipment
Report out-of-place shark control equipment, and entangled marine life (24 hours) to the 24/7 hotline - 1800 806 891
Follow and check the SLSWA Twitter and SharkSmart website
Report a shark sighting to the Water Police - 08 9442 8600
Download the SharkSmart WA app
Read safety information and check the shark sightings log
Report shark sightings to the police if urgent
If not urgent, report to the Fishwater Hotline - 1800 065 522
Report a shark sighting to the police if urgent or notify lifesavers
Download the VIC Emergency app which shows where a shark has been spotted
Recognise and reduce risks associated with sharks at NZ beaches
Dorsal Shark Reports - website and app Dorsal - Community Based Shark Alert App
OCEARCH Shark Tracker Ocearch
Fishing Points App Fishing Points - GPS Fishing App
SharkSmart Shark Activity Shark Activity
If you have any questions or need extra support, we're here to help you anytime in any language. Simply start a chat with us via the home screen of the Sonder app.
Information sourced from: 9News, Australian Geographic, ABC, Surf Life Saving WA.
Image credit: WA SharkSmart.
All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health professional.