History of Shark Attacks on the Gold Coast

Are there sharks?

Well, in a nutshell, yes. But you're more likely to be attacked by lightning than a shark. A Shark Control Program run by the Queensland Government manages a range of nets, bait hooks and other preventative measures designed to keep sharks away from people swimming at the beach. There have only been a few reported shark attacks in the waters off the Gold Coast in recent years, most of which involve only minor injuries.

Even shark sightings are rare on the open beach, with only one or two large sharks even being seen by average beach goers each year and if a shark is spotted (either by life guards or aerial surveillance), swimmers are quickly warned.

However, while your chances of meeting a shark in the ocean are slim, if you enter the water in the canal estates and salt water estuaries situated away from the ocean, you're in much more dangerous territory. Since 2002 there have been two fatal shark attacks in canals and lakes and local newspapers regularly run stories about the waterways are teeming with aggressive bull sharks.

If you want to swim, go to the beach, don't jump in a lake, and never paddle in the canals, especially at dawn or dusk when sharks are hunting. It's also advisable to not swim anywhere at night. If you like a bit of danger, then why not swim with the sharks at Sea World's Shark SCUBA program.

Gold Coast Shark Attacks - Statistics & Related Information

Since the instigation of the Shark Control Program by the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries in the 1960s, sharks are rarely sighted on open surf beaches (perhaps once every six months). However, shark sightings in the canals are very common and since 2002 there have been two fatal shark attacks in canals and inland lakes.

The following table shows the number of recorded shark attacks on the Gold Coast, where the attack took place, the nature of the injury, what the person was doing at the time, the time of day, species of shark and other relevant information where available.

Please note that shark attacks have not been listed where it was clear that the shark was provoked (for example there have been a number of incidents where shark fisherman have been bitten while trying to remove sharks from their nets), or where it has not been proven that a shark was at fault (there have been incidents where people have gone missing and it has been presumed that a shark took them, but there is insufficient evidence to confirm the details).

Unprovoked Shark Attacks on the Gold Coast: 1905-2012

This data is Copyright © 2012 Gold Coast and may not be reproduced without permission

DateAreaActivityNameSexAgeInjuryTimeSpeciesInfo Source
12-Jun-1905 Fingal Beach Surfing male, an American tourist M   No injury, board broken in two   3m shark Herald, 4/10/1990, p.4
15-Apr-1934 Currumbin Body surfing Frank Ilett M 34 Leg lacerated & punctured 9:30   V.M. Coppleson (1958), pp.92 & 238. Note: L. Schultz lists date as 1/15/1934
27-Oct-1937 Kirra Beach Swimming Norman Girvan M 18 FATAL 17:30 3.6m Female Tiger Shark V.M. Coppleson, pp.51, 81-84 & 234; A. Sharpe, pp.94-96; H. Edwards, pp.114-115
15-Jan-1940 Surfers Paradise Swimming Douglas Bright M 22 Chest lacerated Afternoon   V.M. Coppleson (1958), pp. 93 & 238
25-Nov-1950 Burleigh Heads Body surfing Leo Vincent Ryan M 21 Part of buttocks & fingers severed 17:15 3m 'White Shark' G.P.Whitley (1951), p. 194, cites Sunday Herald (Sydney), 11/26/1950 edition; V.M. Coppleson (1958), pp. 93-94 & 239
25-Nov-1950 Burleigh Heads Swimming Leo Ryan M   Lost left hand     Source
13-Dec-1953 Palm Beach Swimming or wading out to warn bathers that a shark had been seen Neil Tapp M 16 Bruised shoulder chest & foot 12:00   V.M. Coppleson (1958), pp.95 & 240
23-Nov-1958 Surfers Paradise Swimming Peter Gerard Spronk M 21 FATAL 17:15   Source
22-Nov-1959 Surfers Paradise Trailing the field in a surf race Jeffrey Francis Sasche (or Sachse) M 19 Lower left leg bittten, hand abraded 11:00 3m-4.3m Shark Daily Mirror (Sydney) 11/23/1959 edition; G.P. Whitley; P. Gilbert, L. Schultz & S. Springer (1960); J. Green, p.35
22-Nov-1959 Surfers Paradise taking part in a club race Geoff Sachse M   bitten on both legs and arms     Source
28-Nov-1959 North Burleigh Standing in chest-deep water David Beaver M 17 Right foot lacerated 7:30 Small Shark Sunday Mail (Brisbane), 11/29/1959 edition
4-Feb-1962 Greenmount Beach Swimming Lance Maloney M 35 Shin bitten 2:30 60cm shark Courier Mail (Brisbane), 2/5/1962
18-Nov-1964 Fingal Beach Rescuing swimmers Glenthorne Prior M 29 FATAL 13:30   Daily Mirror (Sydney), 11/19/1964 edition
30-Nov-1967 Surfers Paradise   Jan Ligrov M 18 Arm lacerated   Grey Nurse (1994) #1524
22-Dec-1972 Currumbin Rock   Mark Worman M   Hand bitten     R. McKenzie, Sunday Mail, 9/6/1987, p.11
26-Apr-1977 Tallebudgera   Gary Jones M   Survived     R. McKenzie, Sunday Mail, 9/6/1987, p.11
2-Nov-1989 Mermaid Waters Swimming in canal Kristoffer Fredriksen M 10 Left ankle broken & lacerated   2m Shark, possibly Bronze Whaler Courier-Mail, 11/7/1989, p.3
28-Oct-1990 Mermaid Waters Swimming Craig Coleman M 26 Buttocks & hip bitten 20:30   Sunday Mail (QLD), 10/28/1990, p.1
28-Nov-1990 Nerang River Swimming Michael Pignolet M 26 Abdomen, hip, leg & arm bitten   1.5m Shark Herald Sun, 11/30/1990, p.34
19-Jan-1991 Mermaid Waters Swimming Michael Sproule M 35 Hands, legs & buttocks lacerated 8:10   Sunday Mail, 1/20/1991, p.1
28-Feb-1997 Nerang River (Carrara) Swimming female F 21 Left leg biten   Small Shark The Advertiser, 3/1/1997, p.12
30-Mar-2000 Main Beach Swimming Andrija Rojcezic M 30 Left calf bitten 14:00   Source
16-Dec-2002 Miami Lake Swimming Beau Martin M 23 FATAL 2:30 Bull shark T. Peake, GSAF; Northern Territory News, 12/20/2002, p.9



Burleigh Lake Swimming Bob Purcell M 84 FATAL Morning 2m Bull Shark

T. Peake, GSAF; Sunday Territorian, 2/9/2003, p.9


Broadwater Swimming Josh Edwards M teen Hand bitten Morning Medium shark


Coolangatta Swimming   M 19 Thigh bitten Morning Small shark


Nobbys Beach Surfing Billy O'Leary M 20 Leg bitten 5pm Bull shark

J. Pierce, The Courier Mail, 20/3/2012