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

Which sharks are potentially dangerous to humans?
There are over 370 shark species world wide with at least 166 species inhabiting Australian waters. Of those only a very small number are known to be dangerous to humans.

The ASAF data indicates that the majority of shark attacks that were deadly or severely injured humans come from three main groups of sharks—the white shark (Carcharodon carcharias), tiger shark (Galeocerdocuvier) and the family of whalers (Carcharhinidae which contain the bull shark Carchariasleucas).


Ron Taylor diving with an
oceanic whitetip shark, Carcharhinus longimanus
(© Ron and Valerie Taylor)

Other large sharks can also be considered possibly dangerous, mostly because of their size. They include the wobbegong (Orectolobus sp), hammerhead (Sphyrna sp), blue shark (Prionace glauca), mako (Isurus sp), and grey nurse shark (Carcharias taurus). However, it must be remembered that any large animal can be considered dangerous to humans (on land or in the sea).

Why do sharks attack humans?
There are several ideas as to why sharks ‘attack’ humans. Some ‘attacks’ on humans may be purely curiosity; some may be territorial; others may be related to the invasion of the shark’s personal space by humans. Other ideas include mistaken identity, or the shark may have been disrupted during its breeding behaviour. It has been shown that most encounters with sharks, where injuries occur, usually result in single racking wounds that may indicate defence behaviour rather than a hunger-related attack.

The majority of people that are bitten receive a single bite and are released, which indicates the shark is not just biting to get food in these cases.

Sharks view of a board rider
(© Ron and Valerie Taylor)

Ron Taylor diving with great hammerhead
sharks, Sphyrna mokarran
(© Ron and Valerie Taylor)

Grey nurse shark



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Save Our Sharks March 6 to 13, 2005