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Minimise shark bite risks as diving and snorkelling activities peak

With holiday-makers heading to our waterways in droves, dive and snorkel tour operators should ensure their safety systems and processes are up to date and staff are briefed on how to minimise the risk of shark bites.

Operators who offer diving, snorkelling or swimming activities must have a safe system of work in place to manage the risk of nature-based tours, including risk assessments and work procedures, to safely share the water with these potentially dangerous animals.

Sharks are intelligent, curious and normally passive creatures, but they can become aggressive around humans, particularly when they are frightened or when there is food in the water. The species considered the most dangerous to humans are the tiger shark and the bull shark. However there have been bites from other shark species such as the bronze whaler and even the white tip reef shark.

Sharks live along the coast and in estuaries, rivers and canals. Operators in eco-tourism and adventure tours using these waterways are reminded the risk of shark bites can be minimised by:

  • not diving, snorkelling or swimming at dusk or dawn
  • swimming in clear water (not in murky water, busy anchorages, estuary mouths or canals)
  • not throwing food scraps or fish waste overboard (including in anchorages or where people are in the water)
  • not snorkelling, diving or swimming in the vicinity of people who are fishing or cleaning fish
  • snorkelling or diving with a buddy
  • following local signage
  • wearing a shark deterrent device which has been independently tested and verified

Your risk assessment should identify if any of these strategies are not being observed and your workers should understand and be confident to take any required action to keep people safe. This could include moving to a different site or not allowing people into the water. Other factors that may increase the risk of shark bites include:

  • if large sharks have been seen or there have been prior bites reported in the area
  • if fish suddenly dive/disperse or appear agitated
  • diving, snorkelling or swimming near where fish are being fed
  • bait fish activity or diving birds
  • people thrashing and splashing in the water
  • people wearing reflective jewellery.

If a shark bite occurs and first aid is required, immediate and effective bleeding control is essential. Assess your first aid kits and make sure they have the right equipment to deal with a serious injury. First aiders might also need additional training to ensure response to the incident is effective. Refreshing first aid knowledge and CPR regularly is also recommended.

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