- Simon Nellist, 35, a diving instructor, was killed by a great white shark off Sydney in 2022.
- A report has classified Nellist’s death as a “provoked incident.”
- The frenzied shark might have been drawn to him because of fishermen’s bait in the water.
The British man that was killed by a great white shark off the coast of Australia last year died in a “provoked incident,” researchers have said.
Simon Nellist, a 35-year-old scuba diving instructor, had been swimming at Buchan Point, near Little Bay, southeast of Sydney, when the 15-foot-long shark attacked him from below, according to The Times of London.
Nellist, who was wearing a black wetsuit and training for a charity swim when the incident took place last February, lived in a suburb of Sydney with his Australian fiancée Jessie Ho.
The International Shark Attack File (ISAF), a global database of all known shark attacks, has now classified Nellist’s death as a “provoked incident,” which refers to a situation in which a human unintentionally or intentionally initiates contact with a shark.
Gavin Naylor, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research, told The Times that Nellist was “in no way intending to provoke” the shark but had been swimming in an area where people were fishing.
“We find that a large fraction of bites that are reported to us occur where people are fishing and there is chum or bait in the water. Fishing brings bait fish closer to shore than they might otherwise be, and sharks often follow,” he said.
He explained that these circumstances might have “excited” the shark or induced “atypical behavior.”
As a result, ISAF classified the incident as “provoked,” Naylor said.
A video of the attack filmed by a fisherman showed the shark in a “frenzied state,” according to The Times.
“Someone just got eaten by a shark,” a man can be heard yelling in the video. “A big great white, that’s a great white, oh no, that’s insane, the person’s still there.”
The Australian Shark Incident Database, unlike ISAF, has recorded Nellist’s death as an “unprovoked incident.”
Fatal shark attacks are extremely rare. In 2022, the ISAF confirmed five unprovoked fatal shark bites globally, with 52 nonfatal bites. Most attacks occurred in the US, and Australia had the second highest number.
Experts have said that sharks often mistake swimmers in wetsuits for seals, which might cause them to attack.
While it is unusual for sharks to attack humans, Nellist’s death occurred around the time of increased concern over shark aggression towards fishermen in Australia, The Times noted.
In response to his death, authorities urged fishermen to be more careful in using bait and disposing of bloody material that would attract sharks near swimmers.
Correction: May 2, 2023 — An earlier version of this story misstated the number of fatal shark bites recorded in 2022. The ISAF confirmed five, not 57.