The historical data set can help scientists better understand shark-human interactions

Scientific data (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41597-022-01453-9″ width=”800″ height=”506″/>

Proportion of Australian shark bites resulting in death or injury, categorized by location of injury on the victim’s body (left panel; 250 bites resulting in fatal injury, 723 bites resulting in nonfatal injury) and by species (right panel; bites of 201 tiger, 170 bull, 258 white and 303 bites from other sharks). credit: Scientific data (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41597-022-01453-9

Taronga’s Australian Shark Incident Database (ASID) details more than 1000 shark-human interactions that have occurred in Australia over the past 230 years.

The database can be accessed by scientists and analysts to identify patterns and relationships between shark bites and environmental, biological or social factors. This will help conservationists, authorities and members of the public determine the conditions affecting shark bite risk and make informed decisions when implementing or selecting mitigation measures.

This Shark Incident Record (formerly known as the Australian Shark Attack File) was founded by John West in 1980 and has been maintained by the Taronga Conservation Society Australia since 1984. This data, curated by shark experts in Taronga, was obtained with the help of questionnaires completed by shark bite victims or witnesses, media reports and information provided by state and territory fisheries departments. The data set was recently standardized by researchers at Flinders University and Taronga University.

“Such long-term and comprehensive data sets are rare in the world of marine science, with most data being collected over short periods of time, which limits understanding of the larger patterns and processes at play,” says Dr Phoebe Meagher of Taronga, database curator. “Sharing this data in a de-identified, peer-reviewed way means we can learn from these tragic events and how to secure a shared ocean for sharks and people.”

“New opportunities to maximize the impact of this data, particularly on long-term climate patterns and shark behaviour, is also an exciting opportunity,” adds Dr Meagher.

The database includes geographic location of the incident, weather conditions, state of recovery of the victim, activity at the time of the bite (such as surfing or boating), shark species and time of the incident – although all personally identifiable information has been removed. A paper describing the data was recently published in Nature’s Scientific data.

“Excitingly, this data can be used to optimize the design of mitigation measures. For example, shark deterrents currently being developed could be prioritized for integration into wetsuits or surfboards to reduce the severity of injuries and deaths,” says lead author and shark bite researcher, Madeline Riley of Flinders University.

The potential reasons behind the increase in shark bites in Australia are still unclear. “Globally and in Australia, shark bites to humans have been steadily increasing over the past few decades,” says Professor Charlie Heuveners of Flinders University. “However, this increase is not happening everywhere, with shark bites declining in some regions and remaining stable in others. This reflects the high variability of shark bite risk.”

“It is unlikely to be linked to a single factor and a combination of factors is likely contributing to the increased number of shark bites, including a growing human population spending more time in water activities and recovering shark populations or changes in shark incidence along the coast,” adds Professor Heuvenirs.

Environmental and habitat changes such as changing water temperatures, prey redistribution and climate change are also potentially contributing to changes in shark bite numbers and increased cases in some regions.

In addition to helping people predict the likelihood of a shark bite, ASID can also help policymakers and ocean recreationists make informed decisions when selecting and implementing the most appropriate shark bite mitigation measures.

For example, by assessing the most common activity at the time of a shark bite (eg surfing, swimming, diving) mitigation strategies can be focused on higher risk activities specific to a given region. Analysts can also use the data to assess long-term changes in species distributions as a result of phenomena such as climate change.

Dr Vic Peddemores, Shark Scientist at the NSW Department of Primary Industries, explained how the database could directly benefit authorities responsible for bather safety.

“Allowing access to a standardized database of shark-human interactions enables ongoing trending and development of potential shark hazard mitigation measures, such as those implemented by the NSW Government in the new $85 million Shark Management Program the dollar.”

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More info:
See the Australian Shark Incident Database online: … rk-incident-database

Madeline Riley et al, The Australian Shark Incident Database to quantify temporal and spatial patterns of shark-human conflict, Scientific data (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41597-022-01453-9

Courtesy of Taronga Conservation Society Australia

Quote: Historical data set may help scientists better understand shark-human interactions (2022, July 6) Retrieved July 6, 2022, from historical-dataset-scientists-shark-human-interactions.html

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