Shark attacks in New Caledonia from 1958 to 2020

Published on
10 February 2022

Attaques de requins en Nouvelle-Calédonie de 1958 à 2020 : revue de cas. ( Shark attacks in New Caledonia from 1958 to 2020: a review of cases )


Background and objectives. Recent shark attacks in New Caledonia have prompted local authorities to elaborate a risk-management plan. The objective of the present paper is to produce detailed data on shark attacks that occurred in New Caledonian waters for the last few decades, as well as on the injuries of the victims, in order to inform rescue and medical services as well as authorities in charge of educating the public and providing security.

Methods. Incidents involving sharks and humans in New Caledonia for the last six decades were included into a database. Sharks were tentatively identified to species according to the shape, size and other external characteristics of injuries to the victims, together with witness accounts. The severity of shark bites was evaluated against the scale proposed by A.K. Lentz and co-authors (Am Surg. 2010;76:101-6).

Results. Sixty-seven shark-attack cases were recorded in New Caledonia from 1958 to 2020, of which 13 were lethal. The majority of the attacks concerned spearfishers and freedivers collecting invertebrates (58.5% of total). In the last decades, shark attacks may have increased towards bathers, swimmers and snorkelers (18.5%), and people taking part in water sports including surf, kitesurf, windsurf and SUP foil (14%). One scuba diver was also attacked (1.5%). Twenty attacks including 8 lethal ones were ascribed to the tiger shark Galeocerdo cuvier; 14 attacks including 2 lethal ones to the bull shark Carcharhinus leucas; 2 attacks including 1 lethal to the great white shark Carcharodon carcharias. The lethality of attacks was almost one in five, above the global average.

Conclusions. Feeding incentive appeared to be a frequent factor triggering attacks. The education of the public should be promoted as a preventive measure aiming to reduce the risk of such accidents.

Epidémiologie/Epidemiology,Vol.2,No.1(2022): MTSI-Revue,DOI: 10.48327/mtsi.v2i1.2022.209


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