Lesson

Shark Attacks in Australia

So, sharks. I wanted to talk about shark attacks as they tend to occur out of the blue, right, and they’re a common occurrence in Australia, at least the media would have you believe this. It tends to always be one on the on the TV every week or two, you hear about a shark attack. And then I want to talk about shark culling, okay? And this is a hot topic that pollies, politicians, are always yacking about on the telly as well.

Alright, so unsurprisingly shark attacks have been happening in Australia since the first humans arrived here nearly 50,000 or 60,000 years ago when they first surrendered to the enticing ocean waters that surrounded the continent. The earliest shark attack that was fatal that’s on record occurred in the early years of British colonisation in Port Jackson where an Aboriginal woman was swimming and she was, quote, “bitten in two” by a shark.

Between the years of 1958 and 2018, there have been 536 shark attacks in Australia, and we are number two on the list of shark attacks in the world. 73 of these shark attacks proved to be fatal to the victims. Australia comes in at number two with the US at number one with more than double the number of shark attacks at 1104. But despite this, there are actually twice as many deaths in Australia as there are in the US who recorded only 35 fatalities in the same period of time. Interesting. It seems that, statistically speaking, in Australia you have the highest chance of being attacked and killed by a shark than anywhere else in the world.

If you’re interested in taking your chances at the most dangerous beach in Australia, then I suggest heading off to Coffin Bay in South Australia whose name seems appropriate, although, there may not be enough of you left to warrant using a coffin.

Although, shark attacks often receive a lot of air time on national and state news, you’re far more likely to be killed by a bunch of other less-suspecting and cute and cuddly animals Down Under.

In 2011, Australia’s National Coronial Information System, or NCIS, released its first report into the trends and patterns surrounding animal-related deaths in Australia where they evaluated the first decade of this century from the years 2000 to 2010. The report discovered that horses, including ponies and donkeys, were Australia’s most deadly animal causing 77 deaths in a 10-year period. So, 7.7 deaths a year.

Next on the list of cute and cuddly but more likely to kill you than a shark were cows, including bulls and cattle, which accounted for 33 deaths, 16 of which, interestingly enough, were during motor vehicle accidents. So, to any cows listening, get off the bloody road!

Number three on the list was man’s best friend, dogs, who killed 27 people from attacks most of which were children under the age of four and the elderly.

And the final unsuspecting death bringer to humans on this list before sharks is the iconic and much beloved Australian kangaroo, which accounted for 18 deaths, albeit, indirectly, through motor vehicle accidents. So, again, Skippy, get off the road!

Place five and six was a tie with bees and sharks both accounting for 16 deaths in a 10-year period. So, 1.6 deaths per year. So, there you go.

Next time you‘re second guessing taking a dip at Bondi Beach for fear of being devoured by the tooth-filled gnashing jaws of a shark, remember, that you’re much more likely to die from animals like horses, cows, kangaroos, dogs, and even bees than you are sharks.

So, why do sharks attack humans? Are they hunting us like the movie Jaws famously depicts? The answer is definitely no. Feeding is not the reason that sharks attack humans. In fact, humans don’t provide enough high-fat meat for sharks, which need a lot of energy to power their large muscular bodies. Sharks are just inquisitive animals and have no hands to explore the world around them and these unknown objects that they might stumble across bobbing around in the ocean. Therefore, they’re left with a jaw full of razor-sharp teeth to satiate their curiosity and explore any objects they may come across. Unfortunately, for us though, one simple exploratory nip from a large shark is usually a grievous and life-threatening injury to any human when coming from a great white, a tiger, or a bull shark, the three sharks that are the most common culprits for human fatalities.

Unfortunately, beach-loving Australians are insistent on partaking in one of their favourite pastimes, their favourite hobbies, enjoying the beaches and oceans around the country. And shark attacks often cause hysteria in the media and are quickly commandeered by politicians looking to gain favour and win votes by stirring up fear and promising easy solutions.

This is where the contentious issue of shark nets and drum lines come into play in Australia. Shark nets are often placed in the water to prevent sharks entering certain beaches, but they are criticised by environmentalists and conservationists alike who claim that these nets are extremely destructive to marine life and often harm or even kill sharks, which are an important part of a healthy marine ecosystem.

Drum lines are unmanned aquatic traps used to lurecapture, and kill large sharks using baited hooks connected to floating drums that indiscriminately kill any shark curious enough to take a bite of the bait. They’re often deployed in locations after an attack in the hopes of catching the perpetrating shark that attacked a human or at least reducing the numbers of big sharks in the area. However, like shark nets, drum lines have been heavily criticised as being ineffectivecruelunethicalnon-scientific, and environmentally destructive.


Vocabulary

A bunch of ST – a lot of ST
A century – 100 years
A coffin – a wooden box the dead are buried in
A common culprit – A person who is often responsible for a crime or other misdeed.
A common occurrence – ST that happens often
A conservationist – A person who advocates or acts for the protection and preservation of the environment and wildlife.
A contentious issue – a subject people are likely to talk about.
A death bringer – a thing that kills.
A decade – 10 years.
A donkey – A domesticated hoofed mammal of the horse family with long ears and a braying call, used as a beast of burden; an ass.
A drum – A cylindrical container or receptacle.
A fatality – a death
A hobby – An activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure.
A hot topic – a subject that everyone is talking about.
A motor vehicle accident – a traffic accident with a car, motorbike, truck, etc.
A pastime – a hobby.
A polly – a politician.
A pony – A small horse.
A telly – a television
A trend – A general direction in which ST is developing or changing.
Account for ST – Provide or serve as a satisfactory explanation for ST.
Alike – (of two or more people or things) similar to each other.
An aquatic trap – A device or enclosure placed in water designed to catch and retain animals, typically by allowing entry but not exit or by catching hold of a part of the body.
An environmentalist – A person who is concerned about protecting the environment.
Animal-related deaths – a fatality caused by an animal.
Bait ST – Put bait on (a hook) or in (a trap, net, or fishing area) to entice fish or animals.
Beach-loving – the trait of enjoying beaches a great deal.
Bite ST in two – seize, grip, or cut ST in half with the teeth/jaws.
Bloody – (slang) used for emphasis.
Bob around (in ST) – float (in ST) and move up and down.
Capture ST – catch ST.
Cattle – cows and bulls used as farm animals.
Colonisation – The action or process of settling among and establishing control over the indigenous people of an area.
Come across ST – find ST by chance.
Commandeer ST – seize or take ST.
Criticise ST – Indicate the faults of (SO or ST) in a disapproving way.
Cruel – Wilfully causing pain or suffering to others, or feeling no concern about it.
Curiosity – A strong desire to know or learn ST.
Cute and cuddly – a fluffy and nice-looking thing, often an animal.
Depict ST – Represent by a drawing, painting, or other art form.
Deploy ST – Move (troops or equipment) into position for military action.
Despite this – even though this is the case
Destructive – Causing great and irreparable damage.
Devour ST – consume ST, e.g. food or a resource.
Down Under – (slang) Australia.
Enticing – appealing.
Evaluate ST – Form an idea of the amount, number, or value of; assess.
Fatal – causing death.
Feeding – the activity of eating.
Float – Rest or move on or near the surface of a liquid without sinking.
Gain favour – get approval, support, or liking for ST.
Gnashing – The grinding of (one’s teeth) together as a sign of anger (often used hyperbolically).
Grievous – (of ST bad) very severe or serious.
Head off (to SW) – go (to SW).
Healthy – in good condition.
High-fat meat – animal meat that has a lot of fat on it.
Hysteria – Exaggerated or uncontrollable emotion or excitement.
Iconic – Relating to or of the nature of an icon.
In the hopes of ST – With the expectation of and desire for ST.
Indiscriminately – In a random manner; unsystematically.
Ineffective – Not producing any significant or desired effect.
Inquisitive – Having or showing an interest in learning things; curious.
Insistent on ST – persistent; not willing to let go or back down from ST.
Jaws – Each of the upper and lower bony structures in vertebrates forming the framework of the mouth and containing the teeth.
Less-suspecting – appearing or seeming less likely to be or do ST.
Life-threatening – (especially of an illness or injury) potentially fatal.
Lure ST – attract ST using a bait (e.g. an animal).
Much beloved – Incredibly loved
Muscular – Having well-developed muscles.
Nip ST – Bite ST.
Non-scientific – Not scientific.
Partake in ST – join in an activity; take part in ST
Perpetrating – Carrying out or committing (a harmful, illegal, or immoral action).
Power ST – Supply (a device) with mechanical or electrical energy.
Prove to be ST – be shown to be ST
Razor-sharp teeth – teeth that are incredibly sharp.
Receive a lot of air time – get a lot of time during which a broadcast is being transmitted.
Record ST – Set down in writing or some other permanent form for later reference.
Satiate ST – satisfy the need or hunger for ST
Second guess ST – Criticise (SO or ST) with hindsight.
Shark culling – the killing of sharks as a measure of reducing their numbers.
Statistically speaking – In terms of statistics.
Stir up fear – Cause a lot of fear
Stumble across ST – Find ST by chance.
Surrender to ST – stop resisting ST.
Surrounded – Be all round (SO or ST).
Take a dip – go for a swim.
Take one’s chances – To do ST even though it may fail.
The elderly – aged people.
The media – The main means of mass communication (broadcasting, publishing, and the Internet) regarded collectively.
There you go – there you have it.
Tooth-filled – full of teeth.
Under the age of four – younger than four years old
Unethical – Not morally correct.
Unmanned – Not having or needing a crew or staff.
Unsurprisingly – In a way that is not unexpected and therefore does not cause surprise.
Warrant ST – Justify or necessitate (a course of action).
Win votes – obtain votes.
Yack about ST – talk about ST excessively.