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In total eight people were killed by sharks off Australia this year, compared to none in 2019. Leonard Guida, a shark ecologist at the Australian Marine Conservative Society, suggested this could be down to changes in water temperatures.
Speaking to Daily Mail Australia he commented: “What we do know with the way a lot of marine animals work, particularly fish, is they move with the water temperatures.
“So we see a lot of fish, including some sharks, that are used to swimming in warmer waters… as climate change occurs and water temperatures increase, they move into warmer areas.
“What we might be seeing is certain species actually hanging around in certain areas for a bit longer because of the warming temperatures and these areas may or may not tend to overlap with beaches we find popular.”
Of the eight Australians who died six were killed by either confirmed or suspected great white sharks.
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Another was attacked by a suspected tiger shark whilst the species in the eighth attack was unidentified.
However, Mr Guida added his theory about changing water temperatures is speculative.
He said: “In terms of statistics it is a spike and the reasons behind that could very well be just sheer, tragic bad luck.
“If we look at shark bites over the past six years or so, the number of shark bites have more or less remained on average.”
Australia recorded one fatal shark attack in each of the months of January, April, June, September, October and November.
In addition, two attacks which resulted in a human dying took place in July.
Mr Guido called for “more education around the ocean and how sharks interact with the ocean” to help prevent attacks.
He explained: “That way we can be better informed of the risks we are willing to take with any water-based activity that we want to do.”
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The number of people who have survived shark attacks off Australia has also increased significantly this year.
Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald Gavin Naylor, an evolutionary biologist, commented: “Fortunately, our medical response times, our surveillance, is getting much better, so we’re actually saving more.”
Authorities are deploying increasing numbers of countermeasures in a bid to deter shark attacks.
These include shark nets around beaches, drone surveillance and listening stations designed to pick up sharks that have already been tagged.
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Earlier this year Adam Marshall, the New South Wales (NSW) minister for agriculture, urged Australians to be “shark smart”.
He commented: “The NSW Government is expecting to see an influx of tourists to our coastal communities this summer for a well-earned break, and our priority for swimmers and surfers is their safety in the water.
“That’s why the NSW Government has committed $8 million to the 2020/21 NSW Shark Program to use the most effective ways to protect beachgoers from sharks, backed by five years of scientific research.”
On average sharks kill four people per year in recorded attacks worldwide.
2019 saw 64 unprovoked shark attacks on humans, lower than the average of 82.
The majority of fatal shark attacks on people involve either great white, tiger or bull sharks.
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