Are the chances of death by shark attack really so low that it’s not worth worrying about?

Shark Meme_1

Sharks with teeth.

I’m a surfer so every time there’s an attack I reassure myself with the stats. That you’re several times more likely to choke on a ballpoint pen or be crushed by a vending machine. Apparently you’re even more likely to win the lottery than be attacked by a shark. But are you really?

These stats are based on the assumption that every person in Australia is at equal risk of a shark attack. However, that’s not true. Based on who gets bitten, unless you’re really unlucky, you need to be a regular ocean swimmer, surfer or scuba diver. Which is definitely not everyone.

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Best Shark Meme

So I’m going to have a crack at putting together some still admittedly quite rough, but hopefully more reasonable stats. In recent times, there’s been about three to four fatal shark attacks in Australia every year. The population of Australia is 22 million and then let’s say one person out of every 200 is a regular ocean user.


It’s likely more, but to prove a point I’ve chosen a very generous estimate. I did look into it and other stats I found indicated far more regular ocean users, but they seemed based on very little real research and I wanted to be conservative.

By “regular” I mean someone who enters the ocean on average once a week over the entire year.


So based on one in every 200 Australians being a regular ocean user, the chances of death by shark are one in 27,500. Certainly not in the millions and far more likely than death by pen or vending machine.

The chance of being struck by lightning is half a million to one. Being killed by a terrorist on a plane is 25 million to one. Winning the lottery? That’s eight million to one.

Dying in a car accident? That’s around 8000 to one. Or perishing in the workplace? That’s 43,500 to one.Or that an asteroid will extinguish all life on Earth in the next 100 years? Around 5000 to one. (By the way, these stats aren’t just from Wikipedia. I did actual research.)

Last time I checked, surfing was a lot more fun than both driving, work and asteroids.
So I reckon I’ll continue to take my chances and anyone who now thinks ocean swimming and surfing is too risky, I expect that you’ll stop driving and working.
Meaning that you won’t be able to afford a surfboard, or a way to get to the waves, unless you have some very generous friends and family and don’t mind being known as a lazy leech.

Every day humans kill about 300,000 sharks. Per year, that’s more than 100 million. Really, they should be far more scared of us than we are of them.

Batman Shark

There are sharks in the water, lots of them and a lot of the time they choose not to eat us because they prefer just about anything else. However, as we continue overfishing the oceans, sharks may begin eating more people.


Sharks have class.

Maybe if sharks were getting us in our homes, then I’d be up for some sort of shark cull. Land sharks – now that would be truly terrifying. In America they’re called bears and people have actually learnt to live with the risk.

Back to sharks and, at the moment, as many of us are going to be where they live, it’s up to us to know the facts and the risks, which includes the very rare bit of bitey behaviour.


This article first appeared in the Brisbane Courier Mail:


Xavier Toby is a writer and comedian

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