Site last updated: 26 Nov 2014

Surf Life Saving SA

Shark Sightings & Your Safety

Information sourced from Taronga Zoo and SLS resources.


Surf Life Saving SA is conscious and aware of the potential risks associated with water activities. Many people are treated every year as a result of accidents and injuries that are sustained through the course of recreational pursuits at beaches throughout South Australia.

Incidents that surf lifesavers have and may be involved in are many and diverse and include:

  • Rescues
  • Resuscitations
  • First Aid including cuts, lacerations, concussions, bruising, marine and bee stings etc
  • Major First Aid including, heart attacks, asthma, spinal and head trauma in addition to other significant injuries

Surf lifesavers attend to numerous people either as formal rescues or assistance when they are in difficulty. Many hundreds more are assisted via preventative measures, all being part of making South Australian beaches safer.

Throughout Australia there are approximately 300 drownings every year. These occur in all places from rivers, lakes dams and pools through to our beaches.

In all instances it is acknowledged that there are inherit risks associated with water activities. The objective of Surf Life Saving throughout Australia is to reduce these risks to the community, but also to ensure minimal risk exposure to our members in performing their tasks.

While there is no evidence at this time that there is any greater risk than in previous years, Surf Life Saving SA in consultation with officers from SA Police and PIRSA Fishwatch, provides the following information for all beach and coastal users.

The sighting of sharks is not an uncommon experience. In particular during summer months when beaches are more frequently visited the likelihood of occasional sightings of sharks is to be expected. However many incorrect sightings are also advised, including dolphins, seals and other sea creatures, sometimes mistaken for a shark.

While shark attacks are rare and the relative threat of a shark attack is very small, minimising risk further can be achieved through heeding the following advice.

Minimising the Risk of Shark Attackshark2

There is a much higher risk of drowning at the beach (121 average a year - with 300 drownings around Australia in all aquatic venues) than from being bitten or killed by a shark.

Even though shark attacks remain an unlikely danger for humans entering the water there is always a level of risk involved (albeit small). People cannot always control the natural environment but they can control their own behaviour. However small the risk is it does not mean that people should disregard the likelihood of an attack by not considering simple precautions such as swimming outside the protection of Life Saver patrolled beaches or protected swimming areas. Safety and an enjoyable visit to the beach can be enhanced by using common sense as to where one swim and what activities they undertake whilst in the water and being aware of what may invite or provoke an attack.

The following safety points highlight some considerations that may help minimise the risk:

  • Swim at beaches patrolled by Surf Life Savers (they are there to keep an eye on your safety, to look for signs of danger and to assist if you get into trouble).
  • Do not swim, dive or surf where dangerous sharks are known to congregate.
  • Always swim, dive or surf with other people (the presence of a companion may deter a potentially attack and your companion can assist you if you get into trouble or are bitten by a shark).
  • Do not swim in dirty or turbid water (there is little chance of seeing a shark in these conditions).
  • Avoid swimming at dusk, dawn or at night (many sharks are more active during these times and in low light conditions you may not be able to see an approaching shark).
  • Avoid swimming well offshore, near deep channels or along drop-offs to deeper water (sharks are more likely to inhabit the deeper water).
  • Avoid entering the ocean near a river mouth, especially after a rainstorm (rain can wash potential food items into the sea that might attract fish and sharks).
  • If schooling fish congregate in large numbers, leave the water (sharks can be feeding on the baitfish schools).
  • Do not swim near people fishing or spear fishing (as these activities can attract sharks).
  • Dolphins in the area do not indicate the absence of sharks (dolphins and sharks sometimes feed together and some sharks feed on dolphins).
  • Kayakers should raft up together if a large shark is seen in the area (this makes for a larger object that a shark may not be interested in).
  • Do not swim with pets and domestic animals (sharks can be attracted to non-aquatic animals in the water).
  • Look carefully before jumping into the water from a boat or wharf (people have jumped on top of sharks) and be aware that Wobbegong sharks are known to hide amongst the kelp in shallow water. Be careful wading through shallow water as you could accidently step on one and get bitten without knowing it was there.
  • Wearing shiny jewellery can reflect light that resembles the sheen of fish scales (sharks can be attracted to the reflected light).
  • If a shark is sighted in the area leave the water as quickly and calmly as possible.


As more knowledge is acquired about the sharks' normal behaviours and about the circumstances surrounding attacks, it may be possible to develop an effective repellent in the future. However, at this point in time there is no 100% effective shark repellent - although there are some electric impulse devices commercially available that may give a level of protection in some circumstances and there are encouraging research results from the use of magnets to repel some types of sharks.


Any sightings from the beach or shoreline should be made direct to Police via 131 444 who will then contact other necessary agencies as required - eg Surf Life Saving SA, Councils etc.

 Any off-shore sightings should be made to Fisheries FISHWATCH on 1800 065 522