A 24-year-old surfer was killed last weekend in a shark attack off the coast of Western Australia, marking the fifth such reported incident in ten months.
The deaths have reopened the debate about our understanding of sharks and whether more should be done to control their population.
How many shark attacks have occurred in Australia?
Since 1791, there have been 689 unprovoked attacks recorded in Australia by the Australia Shark Attack File, 200 of which were fatal (29%). In the last decade, fatalities have occurred primarily in the states of New South Wales and Queensland, with the others in Western Australia and South Australia.
Has there been a sudden increase in shark attacks in Western Australia?
"The events in Western Australia over the last two years are unusual in that they occurred in one state," said John West, curator of the Australian Shark Attack File and Manager of Life Sciences Operations at the Taronga Conservation Society Australia.
Over the past century, there were five years that saw more than 10 annual fatalities, and eight years when five fatalities occurred over a two-year period, he said, citing the Australian Shark Attack File.
At the same time, "there is no scientific evidence to suggest that the shark-related fatalities in Western Australia are a reflection of an increase in the population size of white sharks," said Ryan Kempster, a shark biologist and founder of Support Our Sharks, reiterating his comments after the fourth attack.
"It is more likely a combination of factors, including more people in the water and white sharks being present around the southwest coast this time of year."