Climate Change Likely Cause of Rise in Deadly Shark-Human Encounters
Shark attacks have killed seven people in Australian waters this year ranging from Queensland and New South Wales. The long-term average has been one fatality per year.
According to records from the Taronga Conservation Society Australia, the last time the country had seven shark attack deaths was in 1934 and the highest annual figure on record was nine deaths in 1929. There were zero shark attack deaths in 2019.
This year’s spike in the shark attack deaths could simply be a year-by-year fluctuation but, as some scientists suspect, climate change may be the cause.
Warming oceans are destroying marine ecosystems and forcing marine creatures to dramatically adapt to the changing environment. More than 80 percent of marine life are migrating to different places in search of favorable conditions according to the National Environmental Education Foundation.
Marine animals calculate their reproductive and migratory cycles to optimize the amount of available prey. When prey movements are altered by a changing climate, there is an increased occurrence of mass whale strandings, starvation, and poor reproductive outcomes as the predator-prey relationship is disrupted. Just last month, over 380 pilot whales died off the coast of Tasmania in Australia’s largest recorded mass-stranding event.
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