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Australia Has Recorded Its Highest Number Of Shark-Related Deaths Since 1934

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Australia Has Recorded Its Highest Number Of Shark-Related Deaths Since 1934

Sharks have killed seven people in Australia in 2020 - the highest number since 1934.

Despite their reputation, usually only one person per year is killed by sharks in Australia, and in 2019 there were zero human deaths caused by sharks.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

However, so far this year the country has already had seven deaths, most recently on 9 October, and scientists think climate change could be to blame.

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Culum Brown, a professor at Macquarie University's Department of Biological Sciences in Sydney, told CNN: "In Australia, [this year is] a bit of a blip. And, in fact the long-term average is one - one fatality per year.

"So seven is a long way above that, there's no doubt."

Experts are unsure what has caused the rise in fatalities this year, with some claiming it's normal for the figures to move around a bit, while others say it could be down to climate change.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA
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With the oceans heating up, habitats for certain fish and other sea life are being destroyed, leading to migration and changing behaviour for some species.

This can cause sharks to come nearer to the shore to catch their prey.

Professor Brown said: "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.

"There's no doubt the sharks are just responding to where the bait fish are."

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Meanwhile, waters in the country's south east region are reported to be warming around four times quicker than the global average - something which one expert says will be tempting to some species of sharks.

Robert Harcourt, a researcher of shark ecology and director of Macquarie's marine predator research group, says some species prefer these warmer waters.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

He 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.

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"And these animals are large, far-ranging apex predators."

Harcourt also points towards the fact that people are spending more time in the sea and are therefore more likely to come into contact with the animals.

He added: "They will potentially come more in contact with people, and at the same time, human use of the ocean is increasing all the time."

Featured Image Credit: PA

Topics: Sharks, Animals, Australia

Claire Reid
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