With the death of surfer Nick Slater earlier this week, the number of fatal shark attacks in Australia this year stands at six. Making it Australia’s deadliest year for shark attacks since 2014. Changing water temperatures could be the reason.

The incident at Greenmount Beach, Coolangatta on the Gold Coast followed two fatal attacks in NSW earlier this year, two other deaths in Queensland and one in Western Australia.  The last time the number of fatalities were close to that number was in 2014.

In total, 19 shark-related incidents have already been recorded this year compared to 23 for the entirety of 2019.

Water temperatures

The reason that there are more encounters between man and shark might be the changes in water temperatures, according to professor Robert Harcourt from Macquarie University’s Marine Research Centre. He told 9News.com.au that the rise in fatal attacks this year is a sign more sharks are swimming closer to shore, suggesting natural currents may have shifted ocean temperatures.

“When there’s a lower sea surface temperature — when the water’s basically cooler compared to surrounding areas — you tend to get more white sharks closer to shore because they’re feeding on the animals in the water like salmon”, professor Harcourt said. “That’s when we tend to get a spike in humans getting bitten as well. We’re not a natural prey of any marine critter but if they’re coming in to hunt salmon, and now is peak salmon period for Australian salmon… then you get sharks coming into feed upon them and the human leg is about the same size as a nice tasty salmon.”