Aggressive & Easily Confused: 7 Facts About Sharks In Australia

Bull Shark | © Sylke Rohrlach / Flickr
Bull Shark | © Sylke Rohrlach / Flickr
Photo of Ellie Griffiths
9 February 2017

There’s nothing more relaxing than spending time in the ocean or along the sand at one of Australia’s many beaches. However, what scares most people is the thought of swimming in our shark infested waters. Although they are classified as one of Australia’s deadliest there are some things you should know first.

They are a naturally aggressive species

Sharks have been known as an aggressive species and for rightful reasons. Not only are sharks known to have attacked humans, but they aggressively attack or fight other sharks and animals as well, whether it be over food or territory.

Tiger shark | © Oregon State University/Flickr

They don’t naturally hunt humans

Living near areas of high-population, like tropical shorelines, sharks hold an omnivorous diet, eating both plant and animals in the area. Although sharks have been known to eat dolphins, fish, turtles, birds, echinoderms, molluscs and terrestrial mammals, they don’t naturally choose to eat humans.

They are attracted to human’s splashing in the water

Previously, Australians were told to use methods, such as waving their arms around, splashing the water and blowing bubbles, to repel sharks in the water. However, these were found to in fact attract sharks instead, especially when swimming within murky water; in using these methods sharks can mistake humans for struggling fish in the water. Rather you should leave the area as quickly and as quietly as possible, but if they get too close it’s best to attempt to disrupt their behaviour pattern – kicking at it, gouging its eyes or hitting the shark’s nose.

Shark | © Marc Dalmulder / Flickr

There have been 545 unprovoked cases reported

Across Australia it has been found that over the past decade there have been an average of 15 incidents per year, whether injured, uninjured or fatal. However, over the last 100 years there have been 298 reported provoked cases (where the human is initiating contact with the shark, like fishing or spearing) and 545 unprovoked attacks. Despite such a high rate of cases, majority of both have resulted in injuries, rather than being fatal.

They have consumed a total of 37 humans

Sharks have in general caused fear in humans, but there are only three species that are most likely to attack humans – Great Whites, Tiger Sharks and Bull Sharks. Since 1791, these sharks have only resulted in 37 recorded cases in Australia where a human has been partially or totally consumed, or their body has not been recovered.

Grey nurse shark | © VirtualWolf / Flickr

They are attracted to blood and urine

Sharks follow the smell of their prey – through detecting their odours in small amounts – from as far as a kilometre away. As a result, they can be attracted to humans who are bleeding or urinate within the water as these both give off strong smells.

They are confused animals

Shark attacks are random events and are generally caused by the confusion sharks hold. Attracted to electromagnetic fields, there confusion is best seen in relation to boats. Sharks are often attracted to them due to metal emitting stronger electromagnetic fields that overload a shark’s sensory perception. As a result they are often seen biting the metal propellers. In regards to humans, they are most likely to be attracted to the activity rather than the human itself – as humans have a low electromagnetic field where a shark would have to be within a metre or so to pick it up.

Sharks | © Tchami / Flickr

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