Australia led the world in the number of deaths from unprovoked shark attacks in 2020, according to international research. Of the 10 people worldwide known to have died in this way last year, six incidents happened in Australia.
The International Shark Attack File, published annually by the University of Florida in the US, also shows a total of 18 unprovoked shark attacks happened in Australian waters.
NSW and WA had most shark attacks
This was the second highest number of unprovoked attacks after the US, which experienced 33. However, the US attacks resulted in only three deaths.
Analysing the Australian attacks, there were eight people bitten in New South Wales, three in Queensland, five in Western Australia, one in Victoria and one in South Australia.
Although the number of local fatalaties was higher than usual, researchers believe this was “likely the product of chance” as the number of bites was only slightly above the long-term average of 16 attacks annually in Australia.
Aussie deaths were higher than normal
“While Australia had a higher incidence of fatal bites than normal in 2020, this is not cause for alarm,” the researchers said. “Long-term studies are necessary to determine if the seasonal movement patterns of Australia’s shark populations are shifting.
“At this time, there is no evidence that the recent spike in fatalities is causally linked to any natural phenomena. It is likely the product of chance, a conclusion underscored by the fact that the number of unprovoked bites in Australian waters is in line with recent five-year trends.”
Overall, there was a drastic drop in shark bites around the world in 2020. But, again, this should not be regarded as a trend, the experts say.
Less attacks worldwide due to Covid?
“As we first reported in June, the observed drop in shark bite incidents may have been caused by the widespread quarantines, closed beaches and minimised vacation travel in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“As the International Shark Attack File continues to investigate the high number of ‘not confirmed’ cases from 2020, we may find that the frequency of bites was more in line with previous trends,” the report states.
Dr Gavin Naylor, Director of the research program, told the Guardian Australia newspaper that Australia’s concentrated population and tourism along the coast, coupled with comparably higher numbers of large great white sharks, meant the country always had higher numbers of serious incidents.