More people in Australia have been killed in shark attacks in 2020 than in any other year since 1929, official records show.
Father of three Charles Cernobori has become the county’s eighth shark attack fatality this year.
The 58-year-old hotel worker succumbed to injuries sustained while bodyboarding about 40 metres from the shore at Cable Beach in Western Australia on Sunday.
A couple who saw Mr Cernobori thrashing in the water pulled him to shore, but he died at the scene.
Meanwhile, the shark – believed to be three to four metres in length – was seen roaming the area close to the shore for about 30 minutes after the attack.
Police attempted to destroy the animal by shooting at it, but were unsuccessful.
A record we don’t want
Australia is just one victim away from equalling the 90-year-old national record of nine shark attack deaths in a single year.
Despite the worrying tally, we haven’t seen an increase in attacks – just fatalities.
Given there hasn’t been an increase in shark attacks, what has contributed to the sudden spike in recorded deaths?
The ability of rescue and ambulance crews to get to a shark attack victim in time to administer first aid can make all the difference, said Daryl McPhee, Associate Professor of Environmental Science at Bond University.
So if a surfer who’s patrolling a break in an isolated beach, perhaps off a rocky beach with minimal access – it’s much harder for help to reach them quickly should they be attacked, as opposed to an attack that might occur off a sandy shoreline.
Just being themselves
Marine researcher Kent Stannard said every year is different and unlike humans, it is difficult to predict how sharks will behave.
Sharks respond to environmental cues.
Great white sharks, for example, are not dependent on water temperature, but most of the species they’re hunting are.
Coastal ocean currents bring in baitfish and other species that are more reliant on the water being a certain temperature.
As they migrate closer to the shore, so do the great whites who are following their next meal.
More often than not, there’s a lot of respect from humans towards shark attacks: We’re in their territory, after all.
But Dr McPhee said there’s still some ways we can minimise the risks to ourselves of being attacked.
Educate yourself about the environments and circumstances that attract sharks.
“A common thread is people noting that there’s a lot of baitfish in the water, there’s a lot of marine activity, there’s a lot of dolphins etc, and still going out,” Dr McPhee said.
An increase in coastal living and activity by humans means there’s more people in the water, which means there’s just a greater chance of human and shark interaction.
“We now really are just one big housing estate from the stairway up the Queensland coast to midway down the south coast of NSW,” Mr Stannard added.
“So there’s more people living on the ocean, there’s more people using the ocean.
“Every person that owns a house along the coast has got something that floats in the ocean. So the chances of interacting with these creatures is that much greater.”