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Australia’s shark death toll reaches highest level in 86 years

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A record number of seven shark attacks, six unprovoked, have occurred in Australia this year.

According to the Australian Shark Attack File, the last time this many shark attacks happened in a single year was 86 years ago in 1934.

The latest attack came after police called of their search for the body of Andew Sharpe on Sunday.

Friends of the 52-year-old father said they saw a shark bite him off the coast of Wylie Bay in Esperance, Western Australia.

Police later found parts of his wetsuit and a surfboard that had washed up on a beach near Esperance.

Moment shark fatally attacks surfer off Australian coast

Ocean Safety and Support Group founder Mitch Capelli told ABC News the community would like to see the use of drumlines, an unmanned aquatic trap used to lure and capture large sharks, following the attack.

The search was called off with the approval of Mr Sharpe’s family who said in a statement that the “loving father” was an experienced surfer of 40 years and knew the risks “very well”.

Mr Sharpe’s death was the seventh death from a shark bite in Australia this year and the sixth death to come from an unprovoked attack.

It comes after Nick Slater, 46, was fatally mauled by a shark off the popular Greenmount Beach, Queensland in September.

Dr Phoebe Meagher, the wildlife conservation officer with the Taronga Conservation Society Australia who manages the Australian Shark Attack File, said the deaths from unprovoked bites had surpassed Australia’s 50-year average of 1.02 deaths a year.

Nick Slater, 46, was surfing off Greenmount Beach when he was killed in the Gold Coast’s first fatal shark attack since 1958

Dr Blake Chapman, a marine biologist who examined shark neuroscience for her PhD, told the Guardian Australia that great white sharks, which have killed several of this year’s victims, tend to follow migrations of prey such as salmon.

These migrations can be influenced by a La Niña event, a weather pattern that causes unusually cool sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean near the equator.

“We do tend to see little spikes in shark bites in La Niña,” Dr Chapman told the Guardian.

“For great white sharks, if we see them bite someone once and then leave, it suggests they were maybe curious and weren’t in the area for prey, because there is nothing stopping a shark from eating a person.”

Surfer vanishes in suspected shark attack in Australia

However experts have said it is difficult to pinpoint one factor that could be contributing to higher numbers of shark attacks.

Dr Chapman said the relatively small number of deaths made it difficult to definitively determine the cause of the higher death toll.

Nathan Hart, an associate professor of biological sciences at Macquarie University, told the BBC he didn’t think there were any “clear factors” which explain the fatalities as it is still a “small number we’re dealing with”.

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