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Western Australians swim closer to the shore to avoid shark attacks

Australia’s shark capital: The state where beachgoers are too afraid to swim more than 10m from shore – but even that won’t keep them safe

  • Australia had deadliest year for shark attacks in 2020 with eight people dead 
  • WA has seen a total of 31 deaths from shark attacks since records began 
  • Poll of 1,071 people found 74 per cent stay in shallow waters to avoid sharks
  • Women were more likely than men to stay close to the shore, survey found 

Swimmers in Western Australia are too scared of being mauled by a shark to go more than 10m from the shore.

Australia had its deadliest year for shark attacks in 2020 with eight people dead, compared to no deaths in 2019. 

WA has 31 deaths from shark attacks since records began last century, with 18 of them occurring in the past 20 years.  

Women are more likely than men to refuse to go further than 10m into the water in order to avoid sharks (Pictured: beachgoers at Perth’s Cottesloe Beach)

A poll of 1,071 West Australians by People’s Voice Poll and Painted Dog Research found 74 per cent of swimmers would not leave shallow waters.

Women were more concerned, with 88 per cent refusing to go more than 10m out to sea, compared to 65 per cent of men. 

Only 38 per cent of respondents said they stayed within 5m of the shoreline at all times.

However, shark expert Hugh Edwards warned staying close to shore isn’t safer than venturing out beyond the breakers.

A massive 5.3m great white shark was spotted just metres from Cottesloe Beach (pictured) in December last year

A massive 5.3m great white shark was spotted just metres from Cottesloe Beach (pictured) in December last year

He explained it’s difficult to know for sure why sharks attack people. 

‘We actually really don’t know who they’re going to go for. We just can’t predict it. There’s not enough evidence,’ he told The West Australian. 

‘All you can do is when you go swimming make sure you’re close to others and remain close to smaller people than yourself because a shark would go for the smaller person.’ 

Mr Edwards said the recent increase in shark sightings was due to the ‘movements of fish’.

Despite eight deaths in WA last year, he said it was more likely for someone to die while driving to the beach than being attacked by a shark. 

Aerial footage showed sharks lurking about 150 metres off the Western Australian coast, with one stalking a boat (pictured)

Aerial footage showed sharks lurking about 150 metres off the Western Australian coast, with one stalking a boat (pictured)

Another WA shark expert warned that he was seeing more sharks than ever in his 35 years on the water.

John Snook, who looks after beaches like Scarborough and Trigg in Perth, said sightings of sharks close to the shoreline are increasingly common.

‘It’s highly unusual, something I’ve never seen before in my 30-odd years down here at the beach,’ Mr Snook, the City of Stirling beach coordinator, told Nine News.  

The Department of Fisheries estimates 1,500 adult great white sharks pass through Western Australian waters each year.

On December 11, 2020, a massive 5.3m great white was spotted just metres from Cottesloe Beach. The shark was caught, tagged and released. 

That shark has since been spotted several times further north off Mullaloo Beach, about 22km from Perth.

Since being tagged, there have been 250 shark sighting or alerts along the state’s coast line. 

Fifty of the sea animals were identified as white sharks, 28 as tiger sharks and 26 as bronze whalers while the others were unknown. 

AUSTRALIAN DEATHS FROM SHARK ATTACKS IN 2020 

  1. January 5: Diver Gary Johnson, 57, was killed by a great white shark while diving with his wife near Esperance in WA 
  2. April 6: Wildlife ranger Zachary Robba, 23, was then mauled to death by a shark while swimming off the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland
  3. June 7: Surfer Rob Pedretti, 60, was killed by a great white shark while he was boarding at Salt Beach near Kingscliff in far northern NSW 
  4. July 4: Spearfisher Matthew Tratt, 36, was mauled to death by a suspected great white shark in a ‘provoked’ attack on Fraser Island in Queensland
  5. July 11: Surfer Mani Hart-Deville, 15, was boarding when he was killed by a suspected great white shark at Wooli Beach, near Grafton on the NSW North Coast
  6. September 8: Surfer Nick Slater, 46, was mauled to death by a suspected great white at Greenmount Beach on the Gold Coast
  7. October 9: Father-of-two Andrew Sharpe was killed by a shark while surfing at Kelp Beds in Wylie Bay, near Esperance on WA’s south coast



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