Contrary to what the Australian media like to portray, Australia's beaches aren't overrun with sharks.
It's true that Australia has some large predators on land and in the ocean, but let's put things into perspective. Statistically speaking, more people die per year from mosquitos, car accidents, vending machines, or drowning than from a shark bite. More people cop a fatal blow to the head from a Champagne cork or a coconut!
With 22,293 miles (35,877km) of coastline, it's a point of pride that nearly every Aussie is taught to swim as a kid, and a love of the beach is at the heart of the nation's identity. Most locals are keen swimmers and never encounter a shark up close. But, it's also true that some parts of the coast are more dangerous than others.
Most shark bite incidents are random and a case of mistaken identity, with the shark making an investigatory bite.
Here are the facts, and some handy safety tips, so you can enjoy the water without fear. Be prepared, not paranoid.
Ever since Jaws hit our movie screens in 1975, there has been a continual fear of apex predators. We bust some of the myths.
Myth: Sharks are breeding like rabbits and the ocean is overrun with them
Busted: This is biologically impossible. The three species considered dangerous to humans (white, bull and tiger) sexually mature later in life, won't breed every year and will only have a small number of young. Many may not survive due to becoming food for other marine animals, genetics, fishing etc.
Myth: Sharks are swimming close to the shore because we are overfishing the oceans
Busted: While overfishing in our oceans is a major concern, sharks have always swum inshore whether migrating or
Myth: Menstruating women shouldn't swim in the ocean
Busted: This is the biggest load of bollocks. It takes much more than blood to attract a shark. Keep on swimming, ladies!
Myth: You shouldn't swim in the ocean if you have a cut
Busted: While yes, sharks can detect blood in the water, that cut you have is not going to draw them in.
Myth: Sharks deliberately go after people
Busted: If this was the case, a lot more than 10 people a year globally would die from
Myth: You shouldn't swim when it's dawn or dusk
Busted: Yes, there are many creatures which sharks like to eat out and about at dawn or dusk, but shark bite incidents have also occurred during daylight hours. Scientists say there is no hard and fast rule as to why an incident might occur as there are many contributing factors.
On Australia's east coast, two states operate a government-run shark control program. In NSW, there are nets placed off beaches between Newcastle and Wollongong for six months of the year and in QLD, nets and drum lines are in place year-round.
Shark nets don't form an enclosure and they don't go from headland to headland. The nets in NSW are only 492ft (150m) long and in QLD, they are 610ft (186m long). Stockton Beach in Newcastle, NSW is a net program beach and it's 19.8 miles (32km) long. Dee Why Beach in Sydney is 1.1 miles (1.8km) long. A 500ft (150m) net off a long beach is akin to whacking a band-aid on a gaping wound when you need stitches and a bandage.
Drum lines, on the other hand, are essentially a baited hook hanging off a buoy which is designed to attract a passing shark. They are spaced out in the water just beyond the surf zone so anything can swim around and between them.
The major downside to these devices, aside from lack of ocean user safety, is the enormous toll they take on marine life. While they may be designed to catch "dangerous" sharks, they also catch turtles, dolphins, rays and other marine animals. Not cool.
So, don't rely on these devices to keep you safe while in the ocean as there are more common sense things you can do.
The New South Wales (NSW) and Western Australian (WA) Governments have shark smart programs and
Most people survive a shark bite incident because of the presence of immediate first aid and advancements in medical treatment.
Blood loss is the biggest factor in fatal shark bite incidents and applying immediate first aid can help buy time until professional medical help arrives, hopefully saving a life.
Once the patient is out of the water:
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