The great white shark is a vital but sometimes misunderstood part of South Australia’s marine environment.
Despite being relatively uncommon, there are a few areas in the world where great white sharks appear to be more frequently encountered. South Australia is one of these areas.
The State Government has put a shark sighting and incident response plan in place to help us better understand shark movements. This brochure explains the protocol and how you can help.
Sharks first appeared about 350 million years ago. The ‘modern’ sharks have been around for about 135 million years.
The great white shark is the largest of the predatory sharks reaching a length of six metres and weighing over 2 tonnes. Individuals of 5-6 metres are estimated to be 15-25 years old.
It is a wide-ranging species that occurs in temperate and sub-tropical waters of the world. In Australia, it has been recorded from Moreton Bay in Queensland around the south coast to West Cape in Western Australia.
Female great white sharks mature between 4.5 and 5 metres in length. They produce five to ten young (pups) which are 1.2 to 1.5 metres long at birth and can weigh up to 32 kg. The pups are fully developed and totally self-sufficient at birth.
Juvenile great white sharks feed primarily on squid, fish, stingrays and other sharks. Larger great white sharks change their diet to include marine mammals (seals, sea lions, dolphins, dead whales). In some areas, large great white sharks will continue to prey on fish such as snapper
Great white sharks have been fully protected in South Australia since 1997 as well as all other Australian State and Commonwealth waters. Other activities related to shark fishing are also regulated in South Australia. Berleying for sharks has the potential to lure sharks to areas near people. For this reason, it is illegal to use the blood, bone, meat, offal or skin of an animal as berley within two nautical miles of
• the mainland of the State; or
• any island or reef that forms part of the State and is exposed at low water mark
A restriction on the type of gear commonly used to take large sharks, like the great white, also exists. It is illegal to take fish by using a wire trace of 2mm or greater gauge in conjunction with fishing hooks size 12/0 or greater.
Occasionally, people and sharks find themselves in the same place at the same time.
Research has shown that while the chances of encountering a great white shark are rare, they can increase at certain times of the year and in certain areas of the State.
In South Australia, large sharks have been observed more frequently in inshore areas between September and January, particularly along the west coast and in upper gulf waters. Large sharks also frequent areas where there are resident seal colonies.
Research is being conducted to monitor and determine movement patterns, activity levels and behaviour of great white sharks. This information will enable users of SA’s marine waters to evaluate the various levels of risk based on location and the time of the year.
Satellite tags are being used to provide longterm monitoring data. The results provide a good indication of how the shark population, in general, behaves and whether there are differences in the movements and activities of sharks tagged in different areas.
PIRSA Fisheries, in conjunction with other State Government agencies has established a shark response plan.The plan provides for the quick response to any shark sightings that may endanger human life. All calls received trigger a response based on the level of danger posed by the sighting.
The plan divides sightings into three categories:
Patrolled Beaches – Sightings on beaches patrolled by Surf Life Saving guards. Nominated lead agency Surf Lifesaving SA
Onshore – Sightings of large sharks or attacks by sharks adjacent to the coast, in particular, near swimming beaches. Nominated lead agency SA Police.
Offshore – Sightings of large sharks (ie greater than 3 metres in length) between 1 and 16kms offshore. Nominated lead agency PIRSA Fishwatch
Where possible, attempts will be made to move the shark away from humans. In extreme circumstances, the plan empowers authorised officers to destroy any shark that continues to poses a direct threat to human life
Any shark sightings, where the sharks pose an immediate threat to humans, should be reported immediately to
Callers will be asked to provide the:
• location and number of sharks
• proximity of the shark to shore
• proximity of the shark to swimmers or other people
• species of shark involved including description and approximate size.
Please help us learn more about the great white shark by reporting any sightings
More information about the great white shark is available from the CSIRO web site www.marine.csiro.au.