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How much do we really need to worry about shark attacks?

Recent incidents have led to a resurgence in shark attack fever.

And it’s not just Mick Fanning’s frightening encounter with a shark on live TV during a surfing event in South Africa that’s got people sticking to sandcastle-building.

Champion surfer Mick Fanning had his encounter with a shark televised live.

In July, 46-year-old Tasmanian man Damian Johnson was killed in front of his daughter by a great white while diving for scallops.

In February, 41-year-old Japanese man Tadashi Nakahara was killed while surfing at Ballina’s Shelly Beach, near Byron Bay.

Central and northern New South Wales is becoming the new shark central, with 13 attacks recorded on the coastline this year.

Local man Tadashi Nakahara was fatally mauled in an attack at Ballina earlier this year.

Last month, a body-boarder was bitten by a shark at Lighthouse Beach, south of Port Macquarie.

Last week, a retired firefighter was lucky to survive after a shark leapt out of the water and latched on to his leg as he paddle-boarded at Black Head Beach, north of Forster.

Only this week, a surfer suffered puncture wounds to his hand after being bitten close to shore at North Shelly Beach, north of Gosford.

Terrifying stuff, really.

shark attacks australia
A great white shark, literally the stuff of nightmares. Image via Wikipedia.

It’s true that shark attacks are increasing in Australia. According to the Australian Shark Attack File, the figures for the year so far (27 encounters, which resulted in two fatalities and 18 injuries) have already surpassed those of the whole of 2014 (23 encounters, resulting in five fatalities and 14 injuries).

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More: Today Mick Fanning did something that made him a role model.
And it wasn’t punching a shark.

While some experts say the jump in numbers is simply due to more people visiting the beach, even the locals of laid-back, animal-loving, family-favourite holiday destination Ballina are calling for culls.

A recent public meeting of surfers and locals resulted in a resounding plea for a great white cull (a demand promptly doused by Premier Mike Baird) amidst the closure of two local surf shops and the growing concerns of surf school operators and local businesses, The Australian reports.

Just try and sleep after watching this scene. Screenshot: Jaws.

Former Ballina prawn fisherman Anthony Young told the newspaper many surfers weren’t going near the water.

“All my mates’ wetsuits are just hanging in the garage,” he said.

“It’s been like that for months.

“It’s weird. We all grew up surfing. You’d see a tiger or the occasional bull shark zip by. Now the guys fishing on the boats say they’re pulling in a great white most nights out there.”

Mick Fanning spoke about the terrifying incident, admitting he would need professional help to recover from it.

With the recent spate of terrifying incidents and media attention focusing on each and every attack, it may feel like shark attacks are commonplace.

But the chances of a deadly encounter of the pointy-tooth kind are still relatively rare.

On average, three people die from shark attacks in Australia each year. But 34 people drowned on our beaches during the 2013-2014 financial year, according to The Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report.

Three people meeting a grisly and terrifying end in the mouth of a shark each year is a terrible tragedy. But the statistics show you’re far more likely to drown at the beach than be fatally mauled.

So if you’re considering cancelling your coastal holiday and taking the family on a road trip to Central Australia instead, remember that since records began in 1791, 233 people have died in 1001 incidents across the country.

Perspective is a wonderful thing. It’s just a difficult concept to maintain for anyone who’s ever seen Jaws.

Do shark attacks scare you? Enough to avoid the water?

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