Twelve shark attacks predicted for Australian summer

File photo / Thinkstock
File photo / Thinkstock

Western Australia is now the deadliest place on Earth for shark attacks, with five fatalities in the past 13 months.

But the eastern states' larger human populations make Queensland, NSW and Victoria a statistically more likely location for attacks this summer.

John West, curator of the Australian shark attack file, believes there will be 12 attacks this summer - based on averages for the past 10 years, which include one fatality per year.

"With more people going into the water there is always an increased chance of encountering aquatic animals like sharks," Mr West told AAP.

"This summer will be no exception and I would suggest that the average number of cases will probably occur this coming summer season - but hopefully not."

It's still a little early for sharks to appear off the eastern states in great numbers, with far more expected as the fish migrate south through late spring.

Shoals of baitfish have already been seen in great numbers off NSW - and one large shark has been sighted off the state's south coast.

Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter CEO Stephen Leahy says there's no reason to fear a surge in attacks.

"There's nothing to indicate anything unusual," he added.

"Let's have a look, monitor what the water temperature's going to do - it's always towards the later part of summer we start seeing more sharks because that's when the water's nice and warm.

"But at this point in time we've got nothing to worry about."

Bondi mayor Sally Betts believes shark nets, combined with vigilant lifeguards and aerial surveillance, have helped dramatically reduce shark encounters on Sydney's busiest beach.

She added: "It is true that there haven't been many confirmed shark sightings in recent years."

Shark nets went up at 51 NSW beaches between Newcastle and Wollongong on September 1 and will remain in place until April 30.

Beaches in Queensland haven also been netted and drumlines laid.

Latest Queensland state government figures reveal that 231 sharks over two metres long have been caught on drumlines and in nets since January, with 28 of those in September.

Queensland and NSW continue to record the highest number of shark attacks in the country - because they're the most populous.

The latest shark attack file figures show that since records began there have been 245 attacks in Queensland, 237 in NSW, 87 in WA, 48 in South Australia, 43 in Victoria, 15 in Tasmania and 10 in the Northern Territory.

There have been 82 fatal attacks in Qld (the latest in 2011 at Fantome Island, near Townsville), 67 in NSW (the latest in 2008 at Ballina), 19 in WA, 18 in South Australia, ten in Victoria, three in Tasmania and two in the Northern Territory.

Last summer was marked by a large number of shark sightings off NSW's Central Coast and Newcastle.

Two four-metre sharks were seen off Copacabana beach in January, just a few days after a surfer was attacked by a bronze whaler at nearby Avoca beach.

Then on January 19, 44-year-old surfer Glen "Lenny" Folkard was attacked by what was believed to be a large bull shark at Redhead Beach, near Newcastle.

That attack left Mr Folkard with a large laceration on his leg and the shark took a chunk out of his surfboard.

But recent encounters off eastern states have been nothing compared to the five recent attacks in Western Australia, which has led to a controversial plan to cull sharks roaming close to popular beaches.

The most recent attack came in July when Ben Linden, 24, died while surfing near Wedge Island, about 160km north of Perth

Sharks maintain an undoubted grip on the imagination - partly because of the lasting effect of the movie Jaws.

But the reality is that drowning is a far more likely cause of water deaths in Australia.

The latest Royal Life Saving Society national drowning report shows that between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012 a total of 284 people drowned in Australian waterways.

-AAP

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