9 killed in 60 shark attacks worldwide in 2020 in deadliest frenzy for years

NINE people were killed in some 60 shark attacks worldwide throughout 2020 – the highest figure since 2013.

Scientists have suggested shifting hunting grounds, the weather, an increase in staycations, overfishing and even "chance" may have played a role in the spike.

Eight men and one woman, aged between 17 and 63, have been killed by sharks in 2020.

Out of those nine, seven have died in Australia alone – the country's highest number in 86 years.

The two fatalities outside of Australia occurred in the US, in California and Maine.

Experts however insist shark attacks remain rare and the figures are roughly in line with previous numbers over the last decade.

Shark warnings have been issued for parts of Australia in this year – with at least two mass closures of beaches over fears of circling great whites.

Some 17 beaches were closed earlier this month due to a "huge number" of sightings in New South Wales, reported 9News.

The sharks were lured in closer to the shore by a dead whale which washed up on a beach in Casuarina.

And then a second whale washed up there a week later – prompting another massive closure amid shark fears.

There will be people who say ‘no, bugger that, I’m not going to die to go surfing or diving'

Beaches near Esperance in Australia saw two deaths – Andrew Sharpe, 45, and Gary Johnson, 57 – as locals described the town as "rocked" by the horror attacks.

David Swan, a veterinarian and spokesman for Ocean Safety & Support group, said it means people will "think twice about when or if they will go back in the ocean".

"There will be people who say ‘no, bugger that, I’m not going to die to go surfing or diving’," he told The Telegraph.

Just a handful of people are killed by sharks every year, with attacks usually happening in Australia, the United States and South Africa.

Dozens of attacks and bites happen across the world however by various species, with website Tracking Sharks reporting there have been 60 so far in 2020.

The total figure of attacks seems to be on trend, with the International Shark Attack File (ISAF) reporting 64 attacks in 2019.

However, the the number of fatal bites last year was just two.

Nine deaths from 60 attacks puts the fatality rate at 15 per cent for 2020.

Meanwhile, two deaths from 64 attacks which puts the fatality rate at three per cent for 2019.

Data for 2020 however is likely incomplete, with the ISAF set to release a full yearly summary in January.

According to the ISAF, there have been been some 441 fatal shark attacks between 1958 and 2019 – which averages at around seven deaths per year.

Shark attacks since 2010 have however averaged six fatalities per year up until 2019.

Shark attack victims in 2020

SHARKS have killed more people than they have in seven years, and scientists are not sure why attacks have become deadly

  • Gary Johnson, 57 – Mauled to death while diving as his girlfriend Karen Milligan watched from a boat just metres away on January 5 off Cull Island, Australia.
  • Zach Robba, 23 – Dubbed a "young Steve Irwin",  the park ranger was fatally attacked by a shark off Australia's Great Barrier Reef on April 7.
  • Ben Kelly, 26 – Surfing when he was attacked by an "unknown" species of shark at Manresa State Beach in California on May 10.
  • Rob Pedretti, 60 – Bitten on the back of his thigh by a 10ft great white shark while surfing off Salt Beach, Australia on June 8.
  • Matthew Tratt, 36 – Killed by a shark which bit his leg while he was spearfishing on at Indian Head, Australia on July 4. Counted by shark trackers as a "provoked" attack.
  • Mani Hart-Deville, 17 – Suffered shocking cuts to his legs during the deadly mauling at Wooli Beach in Australia on July 11
  • Julie Dimperio Holowach, 63 – Swimming with her daughter near Bailey Island, Maine, in the US when she was seen disappearing under the waves before being "thrown into the air" on July 27
  • Nick Slater, 46 -was mauled to death by the shark while surfing at Greenmount Beach on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia on September 8.
  • Andrew Sharpe, 53 – Attacked and dragged beneath the water by a shark while surfing in Wylie Bay, Australia, on October 9. His body has not yet been found.


Dr Blake Chapman, a marine biologist who examined shark neuroscience for her PhD, told Guardian Australia that some attacks with multiple bites suggested the sharks may be preying on humans.

She said: "In some of the cases this year it sounds like the shark hung around and bit more than once, which is unusual behaviour for great white sharks.

"When they bite more than once it’s more likely to be fatal as there’s more blood loss."

Dr Chapman suggested the 2020 La Nina weather event – which is making oceans colder – could be contributing to the fatal shark attacks.

Professor Robert Harcourt, a researcher of shark behaviour, suggested La Nina may be leading to bull sharks heading to waters were people swim.

He said the increased rain triggered by the event could reduce salinity of the water, and push salmon and other fish closer to the shore.

Harcourt said: "The sharks are responding to where their prey will most likely be."

Shark attacks by numbers since 2010

THE International Shark Attack File releases an annual summary of the previous year’s unprovoked shark attacks every January

  • 2010 – 82 Attacks, 6 Fatal
  • 2011 – 79 Attacks, 13 Fatal
  • 2012 – 83 Attacks, 7 Fatal
  • 2013 – 77 Attacks, 10 Fatal
  • 2014 – 73 Attacks, 3 Fatal
  • 2015 – 98 Attacks, 6 Fatal
  • 2016 -81 Attacks, 4 Fatal
  • 2017 – 89 Attacks, 5 Fatal
  • 2018 – 68 Attacks, 4 Fatal
  • 2019 – 64 Attacks, 2 Fatal

Dr Simon Allen, Adjunct Research Fellow at the University of Western Australia’s School of Biological Sciences, linked the increase in attacks to the coronavirus pandemic.

He said: "People in Western Australia that would normally be holidaying in Bali or elsewhere are now holidaying around Western Australia.

"Regional tourism has exploded this year and there has been a dramatic increase in the amount of recreational fishing and other uses of coastal waters."

He also agreed La Nina may be contributing to the lrge sharks following prey into areas where they may come into human contact along the shore.

The expert also said overfishing can lead to the sharks being driven closer to the shore in search of food.

Nathan Hart, an associate professor of biological sciences at Macquarie University, told the BBC the shark deaths in Australia may just be down to "chance".

He said: "Sometimes it depends on how many other people are around on the shore, or if you're a very long way from a hospital.

"I don't think there's any clear factors which explain the fatalities – and part of that is because it's still a small number we're dealing with."

It comes after one of the biggest ever great white sharks weighing two tons was caught swimming near Nova Scotia, Canada.

Australia experienced its first confirmed fatal shark attack of 2021 on May 18 this year.

A man, believed to be in his 50s, was attacked as he enjoyed the waves at Tuncurry Beach on the New South Wales mid-north coast.

He suffered critical injuries to his upper right thigh and was dragged back to shore by brave beachgoers before he tragically went into cardiac arrest.

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