Shocking Statistics: Complete List of Fatal Shark Attacks in Western Australia (2000 – 2023)
Australia is one of the most shark-infested places on earth, with over 900 shark attacks since records began during the 18th-century, including over 200 fatal bites! 🚩
Western Australia (WA) boasts some of the world’s most pristine and picturesque beaches, making it a seriously popular destination for tourists and locals alike. However, it’s also one of the places in Australia where you’re most likely to bump into these apex predators. The beautiful coastal waters here house a huge population of dangerous sharks – inevitably leading to fatal encounters with humans.
In this article, we’ll delve into all of the fatal shark attacks in WA between 2000 – 2023, including a historical timeline, shark attacks WA statistics, the risk factors, patterns and more!
Shark Attacks in WA: Patterns and Risk Factors
Although Western Australia has experienced an increase in shark attacks in recent years, it’s vital to put the numbers into context. Over the past century, the overall rate of shark attacks here has remained relatively low compared to other risks like drowning or car accidents.
Though relatively rare, shark attacks in WA garner significant attention due to their potentially fatal consequences. To gain a better understanding of the risks involved of sharing an ocean with these ancient underwater predators, it’s crucial to approach this topic with a data-driven perspective.
Shark attacks in WA are not evenly distributed along the coast. Hotspots include areas like Perth, the South West, and the North West. There are also seasonal patterns, with changes in water temperature, prey availability, and migratory patterns influencing shark behaviour.
The evidence is consistent with shark attack fatalities in WA being linked to almost two million tonnes of migrating whales that did not exist decades ago, luring sharks to hunt, scavenge and mate around their carcasses. More shark attacks also happen in WA during the winter and spring rather than summer and autumn, despite increased beachgoer activity in warmer weather.
Western Australia’s pristine coastline, with its stunning beaches and crystal-clear waters, has long been a magnet for surfers, swimmers, and marine enthusiasts. However, when it comes to shark attack risk factors, activities like surfing, wind-surfing, swimming, and diving increase the likelihood of a fatal encounter. These activities often involve splashing, which can attract sharks.
Shark Attacks in WA: Mitigation and Safety Measures
To minimise the risk of shark attacks in WA, various safety measures are in place including:
Shark Nets: Some popular beaches throughout WA use shark nets and drumlines to create a physical barrier between sharks and swimmers. These nets are designed to deter sharks from entering swimming areas. Currently, you’ll find nets in the Perth area and beaches in WA’s southwest region.
Aerial Surveillance: Helicopters and drones are employed for aerial surveillance, allowing lifeguards to spot sharks and quickly and let beachgoers know of any potential danger.
Shark Deterrent Technologies: Advances in technology have led to the development of shark deterrent devices like personal electronic shields, wetsuits with shark-repelling patterns, and acoustic devices that emit sounds to deter sharks. The Shark Deterrent Rebate is currently available to Western Australian residents.
Public Education: The Australian government has been raising public awareness about shark safety including informative campaigns, warning signs, and guidelines for beachgoers to help prevent shark attacks.
Timeline: Shark Attacks WA Statistics
This paper estimates that WA should expect a mean of 8.6 shark bites and two fatal shark attacks annually. So, let’s take a journey through the history of fatal shark attacks in WA since 2000, examining these tragic incidents.
Fatal Shark Attacks WA Statistics (2000 – 2023)
November 6, 2000: Father and businessman, Ken Crew (aged 49) was fatally attacked in shallow waters just north of Cottesloe Beach by a four-metre great white shark. His right leg was ripped off in the terrifying attack that occurred just 50 yards from shore.
A witness, Teacher John Bailey, stated that the sea turned red and Mr Crew was lifted up and spun around by the shark, which kept him upright in the water. He said: “I always thought the film Jaws was exaggerated, but not after what I saw today.”
Mr Crew’s friend, Dick Avery, tried to fight off the predator in the waist deep water, but since the shark was so large, he failed to grab hold of it properly. Avery suffered deep wounds to his lower legs and feet in the process.
The two victims were helped ashore by friends. However it quickly became clear that there was no hope for Mr Crew, whose leg was completely gone. A Priest, Brian Morrison, who had witnessed the tragedy unfold from a balcony, knelt in the sand to give the last rites.
July 11, 2004: At a popular reef off Gracetown, Surfer Brad Smith (aged 29) was ambushed by not one, but two huge sharks. The first shark was reportedly ‘as wide as a car’ and lunged out of the water and snapped his board in half.
His friends watched in horror as he crashed back into the sea and another enormous predator ”with its open jaws as wide as a man’s arm” quickly moved in on him.
The sea turned red and when his body floated back up, his friends risked their own lives to bring it back to shore.
Failure to locate these man-eaters sent fear along the WA coast.
March 19, 2005: Luxury boat skipper Geoffrey Brazier (aged 26) became another shark attack WA statistic when a six-metre shark bit him in half during a snorkelling trip at the Abrolhos Islands.
December 27, 2008: In 2004, Fisherman Brain Guest wrote on the Western Angler website forum that “I have always had an understanding with my wife that if a shark or ocean accident caused my death then so be it, at least it was doing what I wanted.” Tragically, only four years later, Guest (aged 51) was taken to the depths and devoured by great white shark while snorkelling at Port Kennedy. Only shredded pieces of his wetsuit were ever found.
August 17, 2010: Father-of-two Nick Edwards (aged 31) was killed after being attacked by a shark that struck him while he was surfing near Gracetown. The attack happened 300 metres from the South Point surf break south of Cowaramup Bay. Edwards could be heard yelling ‘Shark, shark!’ as he battled to reach the safety of land after the attack. The incident was thought to involve a white shark about 10 feet in length.
One of the deadliest years for shark attacks in Western Australia’s history was 2011:
- September 4, 2011: Bodyboarder Kyle James Burden (aged 21) died after being torn in half by a shark at Bunker Bay, a crowded beach near Dunsborough.
- October 10, 2011: It’s believed that swimmer Bryn Martin (aged 64) was taken by a great white shark after he was last seen 350 metres from shore at Cottesloe Beach. His torn bathers were eventually found bearing the unmistakable tooth marks of a great white shark.
- October 22, 2011: American diver George Thomas Wainwright (aged 32) was reportedly ‘living his dream’ in Australia before he was bitten by a great white shark while diving off Rottnest Island. Authorities couldn’t say whether he was killed by the same predator that is believed to have killed Bryn Martin as he made his regular morning swim.
These horrifying incidents raised questions about the effectiveness of existing safety measures in WA.
March 31, 2012: Peter Kurmann (aged 33) died after he was ripped apart by a shark while diving off Stratham Beach, between Busselton and Bunbury. It’s believed that he was attacked by a great white shark. Mr Kurmann’s brother reported seeing a “dark, shark-like shape” in the water at the time of the attack.
July 14, 2012: Passionate young surfer Ben Linden was killed by a great white shark off Wedge Island, near Lancelin, north of Perth. His friend, Ryan Soulis originally spotted the shark on the floor of the ocean beneath them and they began to frantically paddle for the shore.
However, the shark circled them and Mr Soulis stated that “All of a sudden, this massive 5-meter-long great white shark comes rocketing to the surface.” It quickly turned its attention to Mr Linden and ripped one of his legs completely off – he then lay face down in the water.
Another witness on a jetski tried to retrieve Linden’s body, but the shark rammed right into the jetski and took his body underwater. Sadly his remains were never recovered.
November 23, 2013: Surfer Chris Boyd (aged 35) was killed by a shark in waters off Gracetown in WA’s South West. Shockingly, the shark bounced off the board of another surfer before mauling Boyd to death. Boyd’s body was removed by helicopter due to the difficult terrain surrounding the area. This was the fatal attack that was the catalyst for the drum line policy in the area.
December 29, 2014: Jay Muscat (aged 17) died after being bitten by what is believed to have been a 5 metre great white shark, while spearfishing off Cheynes Beach, east of Albany. Mr Muscat’s friend narrowly escaped certain death by firing a spear gun at the killer shark when he was attacked during the same incident.
May 31, 2016: Ben Gerring (aged 29) was set to become a father for the first time before he was attacked and killed by a great white off WA beach. Mr Gerring reportedly put up the ‘biggest fight for life doctors and nurses had seen for 20 years’ but had finally surfed his last wave. A 4.2 metre great white shark was subsequently caught on drum lines and killed.
June 5, 2016: University lecturer Doreen Collyer (aged 60) died while diving 1km out from Mindarie Marina, when she was attacked by a large great white shark. Witnesses described the shark as a monster that was larger than their 5-metre boat.
April 17, 2017: Laeticia Brouwer (aged 17) died while surfing a break near Esperance with her father, while her mum and sisters watched on in horror from the beach.
The great white that mauled her to death ripped her left leg off from the hip. Her father reported that: ”It wasn’t the 100 mile an hour attack that people think you may witness; this was quite slow and when it actually, yeah, when it went into gear after that, it was a totally different story.” Laeticia let out an ear-piercing scream before being dragged under water.
2020 was the deadliest year for shark attacks in nearly a century, prompting concern that hunting grounds are shifting.
In 2020, eight Australians were killed by sharks (the most since 1929), in stark contrast to 2019 when no deaths were recorded.
Three of these deaths were in Western Australia:
- January 5, 2020: Experienced diver Gary Johnson (aged 57) was scuba-diving with his wife Karen, just off Cull Island when he was attacked by a great white in an area notorious for shark attacks. Karen later stated that they hadn’t planned to take the boat out on what would be their last day on Earth together, but the weather was perfect and the dive was meant to mark the end of a much-needed Christmas break after a difficult few years. The shark that attacked Gary was reportedly the size of a small car, and despite her valiant efforts, Karen was unable to fight off the enormous shark. Eventually she had to let his body go and seek help.
- October 9, 2020: Surfer Andrew Sharpe (aged 40), went missing at Wylie Beach in Esperance, with authorities believing he was killed by a monster shark that “flung” the loving father from his board and dragged him under the waves.
- November 22, 2020: A swimmer was killed after he was bitten on the thigh and hand at Broome’s popular Cable Beach. The father-of-three was pulled from the water and treated by paramedics, but he subsequently died from the horrific injuries. This tragic incident was the first fatal shark attack in Broome since 1993.
November 6, 2021: Swimmer Paul Millachip (aged 57) was killed in a shark attack at Fremantle’s Port Beach. Although the incident was witnessed by a group of teenagers on a boat, sadly his body is never found – rescuers only recovered his Goggles.
February 4, 2023: Schoolgirl Stella Berry (aged 16) was fatally mauled by a shark in front of her horrified friends after jumping into the Swan River. Berry reportedly spotted a pod of dolphins and jumped into the water to get a closer look, but just moments later a bull shark latched onto her leg. Despite being pulled to shore by heroic onlookers she died at the scene.
Western Australia employs various strategies to mitigate the risks, including shark nets, aerial surveillance, and public education campaigns. These efforts, combined with advancements in technology and a deeper understanding of shark behaviour, aim to strike a balance between preserving the beauty of the coastline and ensuring the safety of those who visit it.
All of these shark attack WA statistics serve as a solemn reminder of the risks associated with enjoying the state’s beautiful coastline. While these incidents are relatively infrequent, they have had a profound impact on local communities and beachgoers, leading to increased awareness of shark safety measures.
As we remember the victims of these tragic events, we’re reminded of the importance of respecting the presence of these apex predators in their natural habitat while enjoying the breathtaking beauty of Western Australia’s shores.
Shark Attacks in WA: Minimising the Risk
While shark attacks in WA are relatively rare, it’s crucial to take precautions to ensure your safety when swimming, surfing, or doing any water based activities in shark-prone areas. However, it’s important to remember that no method is foolproof. Sharks are a natural part of the marine ecosystem, and unfortunately encounters can still occur despite taking precautions.
Here are some tips on how to minimise the risk of shark attacks in WA:
Swim in Patrolled Areas:
- Choose beaches that have lifeguards or shark spotters on duty, as they will be trained to monitor the waters for potential shark activity and can provide immediate assistance if needed. This could literally mean the difference between life and death.
- Check for any shark warnings, beach closures, or recent shark sightings before heading into the water. This may just stop you becoming another shark attack WA statistic.
Avoid Swimming Near Schools of Fish or Seabirds:
- Sharks are often attracted to areas with abundant marine life. If you notice fish jumping out of the water or seabirds diving, it may indicate the presence of predators.
Avoid Murky Waters:
- Sharks are more likely to mistake humans for prey in cloudy or murky water, so choose clear waters when swimming or surfing unless you’re trying to end up as a shark attack WA statistic!
Swim in Groups:
- Sharks are more likely to attack individuals who are alone. Swimming in a group can make you appear less vulnerable to potential predators and may just save your life.
Stay Away from Fishing and Spearfishing:
- Avoid swimming near areas where people are fishing or spearfishing, as these activities can attract sharks.
Don’t Swim Near Sandbars or Drop-Offs:
- I recently discovered that sharks often patrol the edges of sandbars or underwater drop-offs, so try to steer clear of these areas when swimming.
Avoid Swimming at Dawn or Dusk:
- Sharks are more active during low-light conditions, such as dawn and dusk, so try not to swim during these times.
Don’t Wear Shiny Jewellery:
- Reflective objects can resemble fish scales and attract sharks. Where possible, avoid wearing shiny jewellery in the water.
Use Shark Deterrent Devices:
- Consider using shark deterrent devices, such as personal electronic shields or shark-repelling wetsuits as these technologies emit signals or patterns that may deter sharks.
Stay Calm If You Encounter a Shark!
- Easier said than done, but if you see a shark while you’re in the water, remain as calm as possible! Avoid sudden movements or splashing, as this can attract the shark’s attention. If you can, slowly and smoothly swim back to shore or the closest boat.
Follow Local Guidelines and Warnings:
- Always adhere to any safety guidelines, signs, or warnings provided by local authorities and lifeguards. Being aware of your surroundings, following safety recommendations, and staying informed about local conditions are essential steps in reducing the risk of shark attacks.
While shark attacks in WA capture headlines, they remain relatively rare events when viewed in the context of overall beach activities. Understanding the shark attack WA statistics, contributing factors, and mitigation measures can help you make informed decisions about beach safety here.
It’s essential to strike a balance between enjoying the stunning coastal environment and respecting the presence of these apex predators in their natural habitat. By adhering to safety guidelines and staying informed, we can coexist with sharks and minimise the risks associated with shark encounters.
You may also like to read:
This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you, if you make a purchase through any links. This income goes towards the sites running costs and enables me to provide readers with free content.