Shark zone: Australia’s most dangerous beaches revealed

 

Northern NSW may boast some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, but your risk of being bitten by a great white shark is most likely to occur there than anywhere else in Australia.

Shark attacks, while still rare, have increased in Australian waters over the past 20 years. In 2020, there have been eight fatalities so far, the highest level of deaths since 1929.

In Western Australia, you are more likely to be attacked around Esperance in the state's south where there have been three fatalities in three years. In Queensland, Cid Harbour on Whitsunday Island has been the scene of a spate of attacks since the November 5, 2018 fatality of Victorian medical researcher Dr Daniel Christidis. Tiger sharks are more likely to attack in warmer waters.

 

 

Sam Edwardes with the scars of his savage attack. Picture: Adam Head
Sam Edwardes with the scars of his savage attack. Picture: Adam Head

Victoria has not had a confirmed fatality since 1956, although Harold Holt may have been taken in 1967. Historically, Port Phillip Bay has been the most common attack spot.

Tasmania's last fatal was in 2015, but in July 2020, a 10 year-old-boy was snatched from his father's fishing boat in Stanley in the state's north west. His father dived in and rescued his son who suffered lacerations to his arm.

The Northern Territory has not had a fatal attack since 1937 and South Australia has not had a fatality since 2014, but both the Yorke and Eyre Peninsula feature in historic attacks. This month a surfer was mauled off Kangaroo Island.

But the far north coast of NSW takes first place for the most shark attack prone beaches in recent years according to research conducted by Professor Rob Harcourt and his team at the department of Marine Ecology at Macquarie University.

 

Rob Pedretti was killed in June.
Rob Pedretti was killed in June.

 

Tadashi Nakahara was attacked in Ballina.
Tadashi Nakahara was attacked in Ballina.

 

One in six shark attacks in Australian waters have occurred on the Far North Coast, including a spate of 11 between 2014 and 2016, two of them fatal.

On September 9, 2014, Paul Wilcox, 50, was fatally wounded near Clarkes Beach at Byron Bay by a great white. On Feb 9, 2015 Japanese man Tadashi Nakahara, 41, was attacked at Shelly Beach, Ballina and on June 7, 2020, Rob Pedretti, 60, died after being attacked at Salt Beach just south of Kingscliff.

"We did have a spate of shark attacks up there in 2015, it coincided with cold water upwellings, and the same thing occurred in 2012 and in the same spot, both of those clusters coincided with those cold water upwellings which is why we attribute that to bringing the great whites closer to shore," Professor Harcourt said.

 

A drone caught this shark circling Matt Wilkinson in Sharpes Beach in Ballina.
A drone caught this shark circling Matt Wilkinson in Sharpes Beach in Ballina.

The government's Integrated Marine Observing System shows temperature anomalies in ocean currents. Off the coast of northern NSW there is presently another cold water upwelling.

"You can see a cold water upwelling in northern NSW now pressed in close to shore."

Great whites favour cold water, he said.

"It is full of nutrients and that concentrates a lot of fish so sharks come in to feed on those fish in those cold water upwellings and whites will come in with that."

The clusters also coincided with high rainfall events.

SUBSCRIBER EXCLUSIVE: EVERY AUSSIE SHARK ATTACK IN RECORDED HISTORY

SHARK ATTACKS MAP FOR QUEENSLAND

Click on the map and move the location to where you live to see local shark attacks

 

Deaths are mourned up and down the eastern seaboard and some survivors join the exclusive "Bite Club".

One of those survivors is Sam Edwardes, who is alive becasuse the great white missed a femoral artery by millimetres wheh it attacked him as he paddled out for a surf at at Bilongil Beach Byron Bay in 2019.

 

There have been eight fatal shark attacks in Australia in 2020.
There have been eight fatal shark attacks in Australia in 2020.

 

"I knew instantly what was going on, I was hit really hard, like being hit by a car, and it was a huge bump," he says.

"Then I was in its jaws, I could feel it shaking me, I was being belted around. I think I was in its mouth for five to 10 seconds and then suddenly it was quiet."

Six out of seven fatalities in NSW in the past decade have occurred north of Coffs Harbour but shark attacks around Sydney beaches have dropped substantially since meshing was introduced.

The high numbers of shark attacks along the beaches between Newcastle and Wollongong in the 1910s to 1930, which included 21 fatalities, resulted in the government of the time installing shark mesh nets off a number of the Sydney beaches from 1937.

 

"There's no doubt that because we have the shark meshing program with intensive coverage of the beaches between Newcastle and Wollongong there are now low shark numbers," Prof Harcourt said.

"There was certainly a lot less bites once the meshing program was introduced, but there has also been other changes, we don'thave abattoirs pouring everything straight into the ocean anymore, which is what they did have back in the 30s, and things like that have made a difference," he said.

There were no unprovoked shark attacks recorded at Sydney ocean beaches between 1963 - 2000.

On February 11, 2009, a bull shark attacked navy diver Paul de Gelder in Sydney Harbour. The day after, 33-year-old surfer Glen Orgias lost his hand after a great white shark attack at North Bondi. The same week, 15-year-old Andrew Lindop was bitten on the leg while surfing with his father at Sydney's Avalon Beach.

SHARK ATTACKS MAP FOR NEW SOUTH WALES

Click on the map and move the location to where you live to see local shark attacks

 

Originally published as Shark zone: Australia's most dangerous beaches

Huge great white shark circling a boat near Bulli. Picture: Georgia Matts
Huge great white shark circling a boat near Bulli. Picture: Georgia Matts

Jury delivers verdict in Hamilton Island rape trial

Premium Content Jury delivers verdict in Hamilton Island rape trial

It took the six-man, six-woman jury less than two hours to reach their verdict.

Magistrate: ‘You take their life, that’s the end of yours’

Premium Content Magistrate: ‘You take their life, that’s the end of yours’

A Whitsunday teen was swerving across the road and double white lines before police...

19 Australian ecosystems collapsing due to human impact

Premium Content 19 Australian ecosystems collapsing due to human impact

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: An Airlie Beach resident says the government is doing little...