Sharks, healthy oceans and people
Sharks are a natural part of healthy oceanic and estuarine environments. When people enter open water, they are entering the shark's domain. While shark attacks are rare events, only a complete physical enclosure can provide absolute protection for swimmers. The construction and the ongoing maintenance costs of such enclosures at surf beaches is prohibitive due to constant wave action, tidal forces, barnacles and marine growth, and the corrosive nature of saltwater. The only guaranteed way to totally eliminate the risk of shark attack is to not enter the water at all.
However, a better awareness and understanding of sharks and their behaviour can help those who wish to enjoy our world class waterways. We want everyone to safely enjoy water sports, particularly younger people and visitors to our state, as well as surfers and divers who choose to swim outside patrolled areas.
There is a range of factors, such as swimming whilst alone, in murky water and around fish and fishing activity, which may increase the risk of encountering a shark. The broadly accepted conclusions from the scientific and life saving communities suggest that by following a number of simple steps the risk of attack can be reduced.
Since the introduction of the Shark Meshing (Bather Protection) Program in 1937 there has been just one fatal shark attack at a meshed beach in NSW. The program continues today across 51 high-use beaches.
Recorded shark attacks in NSW give little insight to suggest there are any definitive patterns indicating that any seasonal or time-related factors contribute to the risk of attack - see the Report into the Shark Meshing (Bather Protection) Program. Other than the fact that more attacks seem to occur when more people are in the water (e.g. in the warmer months), we simply don't know enough about shark behaviour at this point in time and can only conclude that an uncertain level of risk is present at all times.
NSW DPI provides this advice to help reduce the overall risk of a shark encounter or attack, and to reduce exposure to other risks which may compound the impact of an attack. For example, if an attack occurred at, say, dawn or dusk, then there may be fewer opportunities to get assistance for injuries, thereby exposing the victim to other risks associated with wound management, bleeding and shock.