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Sharks: Does being the furthest out to sea increase your risk of attack?

While being furthest out to sea isn't always a problem, there's another issue to consider if you want to keep yourself safe from shark attacks.

When swimmers find themselves further out to sea than everyone else, some worry they’re at a higher risk of being attacked by a shark. But is this an irrational fear or is there really added danger?

To answer this conundrum, we reached out to Gavin Naylor who curates the Florida Museum of Natural History’s internationally recognised database on shark bites. He believes being further out isn’t always the problem because a lot of shark bites happen relatively close to shore, but being a distance away from other swimmers could increase your chances of being attacked.

Three swimmers in the ocean off Bondi Beach and the shadow of a grey nurse shark in the distance.
We asked shark expert Gavin Naylor if being furthest out to sea, away from other swimmers increases your risk of shark attack. Source: @dronesharkapp

“One thing that we see in the data is that most shark attack victims are singled out when they are at some distance from a crowd. This is why we advise people to swim in groups,” he said.

“There is a correlation between the distance from the shore that a swimmer/surfer is, and how isolated they generally are. You can see this when you go to the beach.

“There are often a few isolated swimmers beyond the breakers. These people are at higher risk of a shark encounter than people closer to shore, not because of the distance they are from the shore but because they are generally not close to crowds of people.”

Not all sharks pose a risk to humans

We kill around 100 million sharks a year, but on average less than 10 people fall victim to their attacks. And its only a handful of species like bull sharks, tiger sharks and great white sharks that are responsible for fatalities, most pose little threat.

A swimmer and a grey nurse shark at Sydney's Bondi Beach.
Most of the sharks Jason Iggleton films off Bondi Beach are grey nurse sharks. Source: @dronesharkapp

That's something drone operator Jason Iggleton can attest to. He watches interactions between surfers, swimmers and marine life and uploads footage and images to the delight of the 194,000 people who follow his Drone Shark App Instagram account.

While some internet users are initially shocked by the close proximity of sharks to humans, most of the interactions he sees at Sydney’s Bondi Beach are peaceful. That’s because they involve largely docile grey nurse sharks, rather than great white sharks which have been known to attack humans.

“I’ve only seen three whites in the area in five years, the rest are probably in much deeper water,” he said. “They’re quite a rare sighting around Bondi, that’s for sure.”

You can watch the moment swimmers encounter a grey nurse shark below.

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