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Government of Western Australia - Department of Fisheries

Shark safety

Of the 160-plus known species of Australian sharks, only three are regarded as posing a significant risk to human safety:

  • the white shark or white pointer/great white (Carcharodon carcharias),
  • tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) and
  • bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas).

In WA, the majority of fatalities are attributed to white sharks.

Wobbegong, hammerhead and whaler sharks, while usually harmless, have also bitten humans, but the bites are rarely fatal. As is the case with other wild animals, sharks may bite when they feel threatened and, no matter how big or small, should be left alone.

Reducing the risk of shark interactions

The rarity of shark attacks does not take away from the serious nature of a fatal attack when it does occur. Nor does the seemingly random nature of shark attacks help to allay fears about being bitten. The wide range of shark behaviours, injuries to victims and circumstances involved with shark attacks, suggest that there is no easy single explanation for why sharks very occasionally bite people.

While we say these kinds of attacks are rare, there are a few common sense tips to reduce the risk of encountering sharks:

  • Swim between the flags at patrolled beaches.
  • Swim close to shore
  • Swim, dive or surf with other people.
  • Avoid areas where there are large schools of fish, dolphins, seals or sea lions and close to birdrookeries.
  • Avoid areas where animal, human or fish waste enter the water.
  • Avoid deep channels or areas with deep drop-offs nearby. 
  • Do not remain in the water with bleeding wounds.
  • Look carefully before jumping into the water from a boat or jetty.
  • If spearing fish, don't carry dead or bleeding fish attached to you and remove all speared fish from the water as quickly as possible.
  • If schooling fish or other wildlife start to behave erratically or congregate in large numbers, leave the water.
  • If you see a shark, leave the water as quickly and calmly as possible – avoid excessive splashing or noise.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
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Last modified: 29/01/2013 12:47 PM

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The information and advice provided by the Department of Fisheries website is made in good faith and is from sources believed to be reliable and accurate at the time of release onto the website. Changes in circumstances after a document is placed on the website may affect the accuracy of the information. Full disclaimer details are available at www.fish.wa.gov.au.