Western Australia has been named one of the two global hot spots for shark attacks.
The University of Florida's International Shark Attack File report, released on Monday, showed 80 unprovoked shark attacks occurring worldwide in 2012, slightly more than 2011.
Australia had an “average year” with 14 attacks and two fatalities, “despite the media attention regarding incidents in Western Australia that resulted in a government-sanctioned culling hunt for endangered white sharks”, the report says.
It is the second consecutive year for multiple shark attacks in Western Australia and Reunion Island, located off Madagascar in the Indian Ocean.
Western Australia had five attacks and Reunion Island three, which indicates the localities have developed “problematic situations”, said George Burgess, director of the file housed at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the University of Florida campus.
“Those two areas are sort of hot spots in the world. Western Australia is a function of white shark incidents and Reunion is a function most likely of bull shark incidents,” Mr Burgess said.
“What I've seen in all situations when there's been a sudden upswing in an area is that human-causative factors are involved, such as changes in our behaviour, changes in our abundance, or an overt shark-attracting product of something that we're doing.”
Mr Burgess said Australians could reduce the risk of shark attacks.
“We could reduce risks by avoiding areas and times when sharks are most common, and where danger is at its highest,” Mr Burgess said.
“A perfect example of that is in Western Australia, where people have been getting hit in areas of known white shark abundance at times of the year when white shark numbers are at their highest - the responsibility is upon us, as humans, to avoid such situations or else pay the consequence.”