A shark attack is an attack on a human by a shark. Every year around 60 shark attacks are reported worldwide, although death is quite unusual. Despite the relative rarity of shark attacks, the fear of sharks is a common phenomenon, having been fueled by the occasional instances of serial attacks, such as the Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916, and by horror fiction and films, such as the Jaws series. Many shark experts feel that the danger presented by sharks has been exaggerated, and even the creator of the Jaws phenomenon, the late Peter Benchley, attempted to dispel the myth of sharks being man-eating monsters in the years before his death.
Shark attacks in New Zealand
New Zealand has a relatively high incidence of shark attacks. Record keepers differentiate between provoked and unprovoked attacks: sharks which have been speared or taken on a line will naturally defend themselves by attacking the person on the other end. Since 1852 there have been 44 recorded unprovoked attacks in New Zealand (compared with 39 in the whole of Europe since 1847). A third of New Zealand attacks occurred between Ōamaru and the Otago Peninsula, probably because sharks are attracted by the high numbers of seals, dolphins and pilot whales in that area.
Sharks to avoid
Great white sharks have been responsible for most of the 11 fatal attacks in New Zealand where the shark has been identified. Other species known to have caused fatalities are mako and bronze whalers. More than half of the victims were swimming, a quarter was snorkelling, and the remaining quarter were either surfing or standing in shallow water. However, the chances of being killed by a shark in New Zealand are slight: since 1852 there has been one fatal attack every 13 years. You are far more likely to drown than be mauled by a shark.
After a spate of attacks off Dunedin beaches in the 1960s, patrol boats and planes have been used to warn swimmers and surfers. From 1969, nets were...