Michelle Daw, Yorke Peninsula Country Times
A shark behaviour specialist believes a three-pronged approach is needed to reduce the likelihood and impact of shark attacks.
Professor Charlie Huveneers is a marine ecologist at Flinders University and a keen surfer.
He was returning to Adelaide after surfing at Daly Head and Baby Lizards on Yorke Peninsula on Thursday, December 28, the day Khai Cowley was fatally attacked by a shark at Ethel Beach.
It was the third fatal shark attack in South Australia in 2023, with two other attacks resulting in serious injuries.
“The recent events are tragic for the victims, families of the victims, witnesses, and regional communities,”
Prof. Huveneers said. “My thoughts are with Khai’s family and friends and I offer my deepest condolences to them.”
Prof Huveneers said the comprehensive Three P approach — perimeters, proximity and prevent bleeding — was needed for shark attack mitigation.
A perimeter establishes a first line of defence to reduce overlap between water users and sharks.
“Examples include swimming enclosures, beach meshing, SMART or traditional drumlines, aerial surveillance, and acoustic tagging of sharks linked to warning beacons,” he said.
“Proximity aims to reduce the likelihood of shark bites when shared space cannot be avoided, for example, by using personal deterrents which overwhelm a shark’s sensory organs and can reduce risk of bites by up to 60 per cent.
“Water users wear bite-resistant wetsuits to reduce the severity of the bite and blood loss, allowing more time for aid to arrive, and are provided with trauma training and trauma kits.”
Australia has the second highest number of shark attacks in the world, rising from an average of nine bites per year from 1990 to 2000, to 22 bites a year between 2010 and 2020.
Prof. Huveneers said a range of factors may have contributed to the rise, including the increasing popularity of marine activities, growing human populations, habitat modification and destruction, declining water quality and the changing climate.
“However, shark bites are decreasing in some regions and remain stable in others, reflecting the high variability of the risk of being bitten by a shark,” he said.
“A few (global) locations have relatively more occurrences of shark bites and evidence for increasing frequency, such as (those) in Australia and in South Australia.”
Examples included spates of attacks at Margaret River, Western Australia in 2011-12; in far north New South Wales in 2013-14, and in 2018 at Cid Harbour, in the Whitsunday Islands, Queensland.
This article appeared in Yorke Peninsula Country Times, 9 January 2024.