Shark attack risk is very low if correct behaviours followed

DON’T be afraid to get back in the water after Friday’s shark attack south of Laurieton, an expert says.

University of Newcastle shark expert Dr David Powter encouraged beach-goers to still enjoy the water but to use their common sense.

“Just be aware of the basic safety precautions, heed any advice from authorities and at the end of the day, enjoy your surf or swim,” senior lecturer said.

Dr Powter said there were many more incidents which could happen on the way to the beach than being bitten by a shark.

A Central Coast man is recovering after a shark attack at Diamond Head on Friday morning which has sparked much debate among the beach-going Mid-North Coast public at this busy time of the year.

Dr Powter said bull sharks and white sharks were the most likely species to be involved in an attack in Mid-North Coast waters.

“Bull sharks are a bit of an aggressive shark but that is largely due to their normal lifestyle and feeding habits,” he said.

Their broad diet includes fish, seabirds and marine mammals such as dolphins.

“They will investigate or have a look at opportunities to find prey,” Dr Powter said.

He said Friday’s shark attack was quite probably an “investigative bite”.

Mr Allan and his mate Jai Baker saw a pod of dolphins swim by then a shark attacked Mr Allan.

Dr Powter said the presence of dolphins could mean there was bait fish about which could also attract sharks.

“If there was a school of small fish, all the predators would follow those things,” he said.

Bull sharks can also be found in rivers. Their pupping grounds are in fresh or brackish water, Dr Powter said.

It is understood NSW Fisheries will use the shark tooth, which was stuck in the victim’s surfboard, to formally identify the species responsible for the attack.

Dr Powter said on average, there were one to two fatal shark attacks in Australia each year and a dozen or more non-fatal shark attacks.

“When you think about the number of people that swim, dive, surf and snorkel, it’s a really low rate,” he said.

The chances of a shark attack were “very remote”, Dr Powter said.

The Taronga Zoo-based Australian Shark Attack File records information on shark encounters.

Analysis of 685 unprovoked case histories from the Australian Shark Attack File indicates that 29 per cent were fatal, the Taronga Zoo website said.

Dr Powter had some words of advice to potentially minimise the risk.

He said avoid swimming before dawn or after dusk, swim at patrolled beaches, don’t swim alone and avoid murky water.


Shark attack victim from Diamond head: Luke Allan.

Shark attack victim from Diamond head: Luke Allan.


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