Surfers down under, beware- within the last month, the Eastern coast of Australia has seen an alarming number of shark attacks. Although the eastern coast has been known to be sharky, over the span of the past five weeks, there have been four shark attacks. Of those four attacks, three have tragically been reported fatal.
Prominent Australian marine biologist, Dr. Juilan Pepperell, is hypothesizing that this surge in attacks may be related to an increased population of humpback whales migrating north. When whales die of old-age, their carcasses often float to the surface, which in turn creates a feeding frenzy for great white sharks. As a result, great whites are likely following whale migrations in search of another large feast.
“The big sharks feed upon dead whales and get lots of energy and reserves from that,” Dr. Pepperell stated. Furthermore, according to marine biologist, Dr. Vanessa Pirotta, there is an estimated 35,000 humpback whales with a population that is averaging growth of 11% annually. As such, Dr. Pepperell infers a potential correlation between the population increase of humpbacks and the number of shark attacks.
“It stands to reason with a lot more whales — which there are — there may be a steady increase in the population of white sharks which are fully protected,” Pepperell concluded. Additionally, Pepperell suggests that based upon his hypothesis and because Humpback whales migrate during the winter, there is a higher chance that shark attacks will occur during the winter months.
Despite the preliminary evidence that currently supports Pepperell’s hypothesis, a lot more data is required to substantiate it. Due to the relatively low number of shark interactions with humans, it will likely prove difficult for Pepperell to acquire the information necessary to confirm his hypothesis.
Nonetheless, keeping this information in mind may help surfers make better-educated decisions on when and where it may be more dangerous to surf. If you do you happen to find yourself in a sharky area, check out this guide for helpful tips to remain safe and live to surf another day.