Man in critical condition after shark attack on Great Barrier Reef north of Townsville

Australian Associated Press and Elias Visontay
·2-min read
<span>Photograph: James D Morgan/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: James D Morgan/Getty Images

A man is in a critical condition after being attacked by a shark at the Great Barrier Reef.

He was airlifted to Townsville University hospital after being bitten at Britomart Reef around 12.20pm on Sunday, Queensland Ambulance says.

The area, off the north Queensland coast about 150km north of Townsville, is a popular spear-fishing location.

Seven Australians have died in unprovoked shark attacks this year – more than any year since 1934.

Related: High number of fatal Australian shark attacks prompts concern hunting grounds are shifting

While the total number of shark bites is in line with the annual average over the past decade, it has prompted experts to consider whether the La Niña weather event, associated with cooler sea surface temperatures in the central Pacific, may be affecting where sharks search for prey.

According to the Australian Shark Attack File, it has been 86 years since six people last died from unprovoked shark bites in a single year.

In 1929, nine people died from unprovoked shark bites in Australia – a record that preceded debate about introducing the first shark nets at Australian beaches several years later.

There have been 18 unprovoked shark bites so far in 2020, one more than last year and the same as in 2018. In 2015, there were 22.

In January, a 57-year-old experienced diver, Gary Johnson, was killed by a shark near Esperance in Western Australia, and in April, a 23-year-old wildlife ranger, Zachary Robba, was killed by a shark off the Great Barrier Reef.

In June, Rob Pedretti, 60, died after he was bitten by a shark while surfing in northern New South Wales, and in July, a teenager died from a shark bite while surfing at another beach in the region.

In September, 46-year-old Nick Slater died after being bitten while surfing near the Gold Coast.

While surfing is not considered provoking a shark, the death of a 36-year-old while spearfishing off Queensland’s Fraser Island in July is considered to be the result of a provoked bite, as the release of fish blood attracts sharks.