A new dataset on shark incidents in Australia stretching back to 1791 has found an increase in reported attacks, especially in recent decades, but researchers caution changes in the frequency and manner of reports need to be considered when examining the data.
The aim of the study, released by researchers at Taronga Zoo and Flinders University, is to better understand the factors that go into shark attacks to help authorities and experts mitigate and respond to incidents.
The researchers note that reported shark incidents have been increasing, however, little is known about why. And some of the variation might be an
The data could also be affected by increasing populations or changing social norms around things like swimming.
“Reporting over time has changed” says Dr Phoebe Meagher from Taronga Zoo.
“In the last 10 years or so we’ve had social media and people are maybe more likely to report incidents than 50 or 100 years ago.
“So this database, like all historic, long running databases, has limitations for sure. But it is the longest running. It is the most comprehensive that we have. And having all that data, hundreds and hundreds of pieces of data that has been collected over 50 years, is an amazing resource.
“People have to be aware of those limitations, but they can also get good information from the database and hopefully be able to understand [things like] long term climatic patterns and how they might impact sharks.”
The Australian Shark-Incident Database (ASID), formerly known as the Australian Shark Attack File (ASAF), quantifies temporal and spatial patterns of shark-human interactions in Australia.
The Australian Shark-Incident Database is a joint partnership with Taronga Conservation Society Australia, along with Flinders University, and the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries
Maintained as an uninterrupted record by a few committed Taronga team members since 1984, the File currently comprises > 1000 individual investigations from 1791 to today, making it the most comprehensive database of its kind available.