As an adolescent girl’s mauling while swimming with dolphins sent shockwaves throughout the nation, experts have exposed the prevalent misunderstandings about sharks that Australians need to be aware of.
Stella Berry, 16, leapt into the water after seeing a pod of dolphins on Saturday while hanging out with pals along the Swan River in North Fremantle, Perth.
Despite the valiant efforts of witnesses and paramedics, she was unable to be rescued after being bitten on the leg by a probable bull shark.
Simon Nellist, a 35-year-old British expat who lived in Sydney’s south-east, was killed by a great white shark as he swam past the rocks at Little Bay.
According to Robert Harcourt, a frequent surfer and honorary professor of marine ecology at Macquarie University, swimmers shouldn’t be discouraged from getting in the ocean, but it’s crucial to be aware of what lies under the surface.
There are several accounts of dolphins allegedly shielding people from sharks, however there is no concrete proof of this behavior.
Off the northern coast of New Zealand in 2004, lifeguard Rob Howes was swimming with his teenage daughter and her pals when they stumbled upon a pod of dolphins.
According to Mr. Howes, the dolphins began to ‘herd’ and abruptly push them closer together.
Then, he caught sight of what he thought to be a three-meter-long great white swimming close.
He claimed to the NZ Herald at the time that the dolphins had shielded him and the adolescent girls from the sharks for the next 40 minutes.
According to Prof. Harcourt, the presence of dolphins near people while a shark is present does not always indicate that they are defending the swimmers; rather, it is more of a case of “safety in numbers,” he added.
He said, “Dolphins avoid sharks by maintaining collective alertness.”
»Perth tragedy sparks stories about dolphins in the Swan River«