Stab Magazine | Shark Numbers Are Dwindling Off Australia's East Coast

Shark Numbers Are Dwindling Off Australia’s East Coast

A seeming spike in attacks doesn’t correlate with the shark population data. 

news // Dec 17, 2018
Words by stab
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Catch numbers of large apex sharks (hammerheads, tigers and white sharks) declined by 74-92%, and the chance of catching no sharks at any given beach per year has increased by as much as seven-fold.” reads The Conversation article reporting the recent study. 

In the last few weeks, Australia has experienced a preponderance of shark attacks. The summery months typically result in increased encounters – both shifting migration patterns and an increase ocean-goers – but nine attacks in the past three months is a statistic more concerning than normal. 

This comes off the back of a number of years plagued with fatal attacks on the Mid-North Coast, and a flurry of attacks which booted the WSL out of town in the West earlier this year. 

Alongside a seeming increase in encounters with surfers and swimmers, fisherman have also subjectively reported increased shark numbers. When coupled, reports and statements like these lead to articles claiming “plague proportions” and eventually a return of the inextinguishable culling debate. 

This study, from the University of Queensland and Griffith University, focuses on the Queensland coast, but due to the migratory nature of sharks and similarities of shark deterrent strategies throughout Australia, it’s safe to extrapolate these findings to a wider issue. 

Despite decades of culling, fishing, and incidental capture of sharks, data regarding their population is scarce. Prior to the 1960’s there’s nothing, and up until 2000 the data that was collected was patchy and inconclusive. This current study comprehensively assessed the number of sharks caught and tagged from 1960 until today. 

Gold Coast, 1963. A shark haul after cleaning the local shark nets. Today, a single sizeable shark is enough to garner news headlines.

“The data indicates that two hammerhead species – the scalloped and great hammerheads, both of which are listed as globally endangered – have declined by as much as 92% in Queensland over the past half century.” The Conversation article continued.  

Great white sharks, despite frequently being involved in attacks, are also showing no signs population growth. A concern for conservationists as the white has been on the protected/endangered species list for over two decades. 

“The idea that shark populations are reaching ‘plague proportions in recent years may represent a classic case of shifting baseline syndrome.” The report continues. “Using shark numbers from recent history as a baseline may give a false perception that populations are ‘exploding, whereas records from fifty years ago indicate that present day numbers are a fraction of what they once were.”

Sharks play a vital role in our complex oceanic ecosystem, and while a cull or extinction may appear harmless to the layman, their non-existence would lead to more pressing issues than a minuscule chance of a shark attack. Nevertheless, as the waters warm, and the coasts rely on the tourism dollar, it’s only a matter of time before the cull proponents resurface ignorant of the data. 

Disqus, below. 


Comments are a Stab Premium feature. Gotta join to talk shop.

Already a member? Sign In

Want to join? Sign Up


Most Recent

Unlocked: Leonardo Fioravanti’s Stab Edit Of The Year Entry 

Watch 'The Cut' now, and baffle at the quality of both the waves and the…

Oct 4, 2022

The Pro Surfer Who Filmed A War Documentary In Ukraine

Damien Castera's got a story to tell.

Oct 4, 2022

Honest Review(s): O’Neill Hyperfreak Fire

Pushing the Limits of Wetsuit Tech for Men & Women

Oct 3, 2022

How Much Would You Pay For A Session Like This?

A cost-per-vision breakdown of Kian Martin and Tai Buddha's latest strike mission.

Oct 2, 2022

Ongoing Dialogue: Jack Freestone And Album’s Matt Parker On How They Get Sparks To Fly

"Nowadays, a standard thruster feels pretty alt to me." -Jack

Oct 2, 2022

Davo’s Death Strikes At Surfing’s Core

The underground icon battled demons til the end. His untimely demise is yet another cautionary…

Oct 1, 2022

Macaroni in the Pot

Jaleesa Vincent and 200 Lefts in the Mentawais

Oct 1, 2022

Introducing A Brand New Travel Series (With A Familiar Name)

Watch the first New York episode of Stab & Red Bull's No Contest Off Tour.

Sep 30, 2022

Leandro Dora: Pro Surfer, Businessman, Punk Rock Festival Organizer, Spiritual Mentor, And World Title Winning Surf Coach 

Meet one of the most beloved and effective individuals in the athlete's zone.

Sep 29, 2022


You’re Gonna Click On A New Oscar Langburne Video

Style that can't be denied.

Sep 29, 2022

Long Read: An Angel At My Table

From Stab Issue 15, October 2006: Chris Davidson has one more shot at the big…

Sep 28, 2022


Watch: Kalani David’s Last Dance

A final surf part from the Hawaiian surf/skate prodigy.

Sep 28, 2022

Taylor Steele Won’t Let Surf Filmmaking Die Without a Fight

Movies shown, filmmaking advice, punk rock at the 2022 Solento Surf Festival.

Sep 28, 2022

Wait, Are We Going To See Moana Jones In The Olympics At Teahupo’o?

Team USA (women) and Japan (men) should be able to choose anyone they want to…

Sep 27, 2022

Donald Brink and Matt Biolos Win Mick Fanning’s Electric Acid Surfboard Test

And we had a party in Oceanside to celebrate.

Sep 26, 2022

Kanoa Igarashi and Kirra Pinkerton Answer Call Of Duty, Win Medals Of Honor In 2022 ISA World Games

Teams Japan, USA, and France move into Victor’s Village.

Sep 26, 2022

The Best Euro Surf Trips That Mightn’t Be On Your Radar

Want to know which less-trodden nation offers the most potential?

Sep 26, 2022

Former CT Surfer Chris Davidson Passes Away At Age 45

A radical life tragically ends outside a bar in New South Wales.

Sep 25, 2022