Great white shark attacks boat off New South Wales coast
In 2020, there have been eight fatal shark attacks across the coast of Australia – a sharp increase on the one per average annually. Researchers have been left flummoxed by the drastic increase in fatal shark attacks, but the warming planet may be the answer.
In the past 40 years, the ocean has warmed by 0.09 to 0.13 degrees Celsius per decade.
While this may seem like an insignificant rise, any temperature change has an impact on the delicate ecosystem of the waters.
For example, in Australia, coral reefs have been dying, which has forced smaller ocean critters inland into warmer waters.
And where small pray goes, big sharks are likely to follow.
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With more sharks possibly in shallower waters due to climate change, there is an increased likelihood of a shark attack.
According to Robert Harcourt, a researcher of shark ecology and director of Macquarie’s marine predator research group, bull, great white, and tiger sharks are responsible for most of Australia’s shark attacks.
Bull sharks prefer warmer waters so they have likely moved to the coasts of Australia, as one example, while great white sharks, the apex predator of the ocean, follow their pray which has also moved inland.
Mr Harcourt told CNN: “I would foresee that there’s going to be greater movement, an increase in geographic range, in a lot of these species.
“That’s because the dynamics of climate change mean their suitable habitat in terms of water temperature and prey distribution is changing as well.
“And these animals are large, far-ranging apex predators.
“They will potentially come more in contact with people, and at the same time, human use of the ocean is increasing all the time.”
Culum Brown, a professor at Macquarie University’s Department of Biological Sciences in Sydney, added: “I spend a lot of time in boats off the coast and this year I don’t remember a year where I’ve seen so many bait fish aggregations so close to the coast.
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“There’s no doubt the sharks are just responding to where the bait fish are.”
Great whites are considered the apex predator of the ocean.
They can reach sizes of more than six metres, and have more than 300 serrated teeth in their mouths.
The giants of the deep can travel at speeds of more than 50 kilometres per hour and can sense minute movement from prey from 250 metres away.
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