How common are fatal shark attacks?
After a British diving instructor was killed by a shark on Wednesday in Australia, several Sydney beaches, including Bondi and Bronte, were shut down.
A British man was killed after a shark attack on Wednesday while swimming off the coast of Sydney, Australia, something that hasn't happened in over half a century.
Shark attack closes beaches
Several Sydney beaches, including the iconic Bondi and Bronte, were shut down on Thursday after the attack, the first such fatality at the city's beaches in nearly 60 years. Drum lines, which are used to bait sharks, have been set up near the attack site while drones have been deployed as officials search for if the shark is still in the area.
A video shared online showed a shark attacking a person on Wednesday afternoon off Little Bay beach, about 20 km (12 miles) south of Australia's largest city and near the entrance to Botany Bay.
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The victim was identified as 35-year-old British expat diving instructor, Simon Nellist, who had been training for a charity swim. The attack took place at Buchan Point, near Little Bay, to the southeast of Sydney. His remains, along with his ripped wetsuit, were found in the water an hour later. Nellist was engaged to be married to his Australian girlfriend.
"This has been a complete shock for our community," Dylan Parker, the mayor of Randwick Council which includes Little Bay, told Reuters. "Our coastline is our backyard and to have a tragic death under such horrifying circumstances is completely shocking."
A charity ocean swim at a nearby beach scheduled for Sunday was cancelled out of respect for the victim and family. Organisers of the Murray Rose Malabar Magic Ocean Swim had considered postponing the swim till March, but said they decided to cancel it after consulting with the local council and lifesavers.
A spokesperson for the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries said its shark biologists believe that a white shark at least 3 metres (9.8 feet) in length was likely responsible for the attack. It was the first fatal shark attack in Sydney since 1963, data showed. Marine scientists call for calm after the news broke.
Authorities have ordered people to remain out of the water on a hot summer day as temperatures hovered around 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit).
"A few crazy surfers still go out and take the risk but most of us take notice and just stay out of the water until the sharks have gone. It's a lot more dangerous driving, to be quite honest," local resident Karen Romalis told Reuters.
How many shark attacks are there annually?
Globally, following three years of decline, attacks by sharks increased in 2021. That said, researchers have pointed to the fact that covid-19 restrictions to activity and tourism were likely part of the explanation for that uplift.
In the United States, which accounts for most attacks, Florida saw more than a third of unprovoked bites worldwide. A new report by the Florida Museum of Natural History and the American Elasmobranch Society, in the International Shark Attack File recorded 73 unprovoked incidents in 2021, up 21 on the previous year. The five year global average is 72, suggesting that we have returned to the recent norm.