Why fatal shark attack in Australia has been classified as “provoked”
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Shark researchers weren’t blaming a British man for being killed by a great white shark off Australia’s coast last year when they classified the attack as “provoked,” the head of a Florida-based shark research group said recently.
Simon Nellist was killed when a great white attacked him in the waters near Sydney in February 2022. A member of Australia’s Parliament said at the time that Nellist, a diving instructor, swam in the area nearly every day, according to BBC News.
The International Shark Attack Files, a University of Florida group that aims to compile all known shark attacks, classified the attack as “provoked.” But that doesn’t mean Nellist was responsible for his death, according to Gavin Naylor, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research at the Florida Museum of Natural History.
In a blog post this week, Naylor explained why the group classifies shark attacks at all.
“Our criteria for classifying shark attacks are designed to filter the data collected so that we can better understand the natural behavior of the animals,” Naylor said. “Any activity that draws sharks into an area where they otherwise would not be, are excluded.”
The researchers focus their analysis on “unprovoked” attacks, Naylor said. Last year, there were 57 such attacks around the world, only five of which were fatal, according to the group.
“We are interested in the influence of tides, temperature, salinity, moon phase, changing currents, seasonality, time of day and the effects that these parameters, both individually and in combination, have on different species of sharks,” Naylor said.
At the time of the attack on Nellist, several people were fishing from the shore cliffs, Naylor told the Times of London. He said in his blog post that fishing is “known to attract sharks” even if bait or chum aren’t used.
According to BBC News, one man who had been fishing from the rocks witnessed the vicious attack.
“It was terrible. I am shaking. I keep vomiting. It’s very, very upsetting,” the man told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.