Fatal shark attacks on divers in Australia, 1960-2017

Published in December 2018

Fatal shark attacks on divers in Australia, 1960-2017

J. Lippmann



The aim of this study was to identify the number, location and characteristics associated with fatal shark attacks on divers in Australian waters from 1960 to 2017, inclusive.


Searches were made of the Divers Alert Network Asia-Pacific Diving Mortality Database; the International Shark Attack File website; the Australian Shark Attack File and the Global Shark Attack File to identify cases of fatal shark attacks on divers in Australia. In addition, a systematic search of published medical and sporting literature was conducted to identify relevant reports. The data collected were scrutinised for relevance and duplication.


There were 187 recorded attacks on divers, comprising 112 snorkellers, 62 scuba divers and 13 on divers using surface-supplied breathing apparatus. These included 28 verified deaths: 13 involving snorkellers, eight involving scuba divers, and seven divers using surface-supply. The victims’ ages ranged from 13-50 years (mean 31 years). All but three were males. The vast majority of attacks were by Carcharodon carcharias (Great White Shark).


Spearfishing and other seafood collection, as well as diving near fishing activities and/or seals, were identified as major risk factors. However, shark attacks on divers are relatively rare and represent only 3% of diving-related fatalities in Australia over this 57-year period.

Diving Hyperb Med. 2018 Dec 24;48(4):224-228. doi: 10.28920/dhm48.4.224-228.



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