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  Seaweek 2005 - Save Our Sharks - Student Info sheet    
Student Information Sheet 12 - Australian Shark Attacks Download pdf version

Sharks occur in all the coastal waters and estuarine habitats around Australia’s coast. As the population increases many more people are entering coastal waters.. In the last 50 years, there have been only 61 human deaths in Australian waters from shark attack.

Some years there are none, other years there have been up to three in a year, but the average is around one per year. Each year thousands of swimming days take place on our beaches, harbours and rivers and the number is increasing with both increasing population and tourism.


The Australian Shark Attack File
In 1984 the Australian Shark Attack File (ASAF) was established to find out the actual number of shark attacks in Australian waters, and to help researchers understand and record the behaviours of sharks where close contact with humans occurs.

As part of a world-wide study into shark behaviour, data from the ASAF may eventually help identify common factors relating to the cause of attacks on humans.

The ASAF database is held at Taronga Zoo, Sydney, and is associated with the International Shark Attack File that is coordinated by the American Elasmobranch Society. Information on shark attacks can be accessed at


Sharks view of a board rider


Shark attacks on humans
According to the ASAF, there have been 61 recorded human deaths due to shark attack in the last 50 years (up to December 2004). Of these, 22 have occurred in Queensland, 16 in South Australia, 9 in New South Wales, 7 in Western Australia, 4 in Tasmania, and 3 in Victoria (Table 1 (below)). No fatal attacks have been recorded in the Northern Territory in that time period.

State Total attacks Fatal attacks Last Fatal attack
NSW 238 72 1993 Byron Bay
QLD 221 71 2004 Opal Reef
WA 70 12 2004 Gracetown
SA 46 20 2004 West Beach
VIC 32 7 1977 Mornington Peninsula
TAS 21 5 1993 Tenth Island, Georgetown
NT 11 3 1938 Bathurst Island
  639 190 (as of December 2004)

Table 1. Information from the Australian Shark Attack File records of reported shark/human interactions since 1791 (over a 213 year period)


Next - Which sharks are potentially dangerous to humans?

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Save Our Sharks March 6 to 13, 2005