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Shark Attacks Explained

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Possible reason for Shark Attacks Explained by Marine Biologist.

After a recent spate of shark attacks along the east coast of Australia marine biologist, Dr Julian Pepperell has offered a theory on why so many have occurred in such a short space of time.

Shark attacks explained

In the past few weeks, there have been four shark attacks and three fatalities in the region. A 60-year-old man died from a shark bite while surfing near Kingscliff in NSW, another surfer this time a 15-year-old boy died after receiving a shark bite near Wooli also in NSW, while in Queensland a man was bitten while spearfishing and died from his injures. The fourth attack was on a woman filming a shark documentary in Cairns. The injuries were not life-threatening, the lady was taken to hospital, and some witnesses said that it was possible she was bitten by a giant trevally and not a shark.

Compared to previous years this is an unusually high number of shark attacks. There were 64 unprovoked shark attacks reported around the world in 2019, 22% fewer than the five-year average of 82 incidents annually. There were only 5 fatalities worldwide in 2019, which is around the yearly average.

So why the increase in number now? Dr Pepperell said it could be because of the humpback whale migration that takes place at this time of year, he explained:

“These enormous apex predators could be following whales because they provide a huge feeding opportunity when they die. The big sharks feed upon dead whales and get lots of energy and reserves from that. It stands to reason with a lot more whales, which there are, there may be a steady increase in the population of white sharks which are fully protected.”

Shark attacks explained

Dr Vanessa Pirotta, a marine scientist of the Macquarie University, agrees with Dr Pepperell’s theory.

She said that the humpback whale population grows up to 11 per cent each year and currently stands at around 35,000, adding:

“When whales die and when they float they attract numbers of large sharks very quickly.”

In South Africa a great white shark has been filmed going one step future and rather than waiting for a whale to die it has actively tried to drown the huge creature in a sustained attack.

This footage might help to corroborate Dr Pepperell’s theory, that the sharks are looking for whale meat.

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Adrian Stacey
Scuba Diver ANZ Editor, Adrian Stacey, first learned to dive on the Great Barrier Reef over 24 years ago. Since then he has worked as a dive instructor and underwater photographer in various locations around the world including, Egypt, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Thailand, Mexico and Saba. He has now settled in Australia, back to where his love of diving first began.

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