Staying safe in a shark's natural habitat

Going to the beach is great fun, whether you're fishing, diving, or just having a paddle. Australia's beach-loving culture means we share the ocean with many creatures, including sharks.

While statistics show that the risk of being attacked by a shark in Victoria is low, it's still important to remember that every time we enter the water, we're entering a shark's natural habitat.

The best way to avoid shark attacks starts before you get in the water, and there's lots you can do to further minimise your risk.

Shark Smart top tips

Download the VicEmergency app.

Before heading to the beach, head to the VicEmergency website or download the app. VicEmergency provides the latest alerts for shark hazards.

Swim between the flags at beaches that are patrolled by surf life savers.

Surf life savers are they are there to keep an eye on your safety, to look for signs of danger and to assist if you get into trouble. By swimming between the flags, you're already choosing the safest area of the beach to swim in.

Avoid swimming, surfing or kayaking alone.

There's safety in numbers when it comes to swimming. Heading out with a mate also means if one of you gets into trouble, the other will be there to help or raise the alarm immediately.

Don't swim in areas where sharks commonly gather.

While sharks can be found anywhere in the ocean, there's certain spots they prefer. Drop offs, deep water, river mouths and water containing sewage all attract sharks.

Be careful entering the water after a storm or heavy rainfall.

Rain and storms can stir up baitfish, which can attract hungry sharks.

Think twice before swimming or surfing at dawn, dusk or after dark.

These are often when sharks are the most actively feeding.

Swim in clear waters when possible.

Sharks don't always have good eyesight. If you're swimming in cloudy water, they may attack because they think you're prey.

Remove jewellery before entering the water.

Shiny jewellery and metallic swimwear can look like shiny fish scales to a shark.

Wear bland, darker colours.

While sharks don't have great eyesight, they can still see shades of black and white. By wearing plain, dark colours, you may look less like their prey.

Check deep water carefully before jumping in from a boat.

It might seem obvious, but people have jumped on top of sharks before!

Avoid splashing and move smoothly through the water.

While it's fun to splash around in the water, sharks can mistake this for an animal in distress.

If you see fish, seals or birds behaving strangely, leave the water.

These animals could be reacting to a predatory shark feeding nearby, or could attract sharks simply by gathering in numbers.

If you do see a shark, remain calm.

While some sharks may be intimidated by aggressive behaviour, others may attack out of fear.

If a shark approaches you, prepare to defend yourself.

Keep your eyes on the shark. If it gets close enough to touch, take action to disrupt the attack pattern, such as hitting the shark on the nose, gouging its eyes, making sudden movements or blowing bubbles. These defenses have proven effective.

Additional tips for divers, snorkelers and spearfishers

  • Understand the rules and regulations in relation to shark species.
  • Understand and respect the environment. Marine and estuarine waters are the shark's habitat – find out what kind of sharks you might see and what behaviour to expect from them.
  • Remember: using bait to lure fish may attract sharks.
  • Avoid diving in conditions with limited visibility.
  • Don't chase, grab, corner, touch, spear or attempt to bait a shark while underwater.
  • Don't attach speared fish to your body or keep them near you. Use a float and line to keep your catch well away.