Sharks of Sydney Harbour

As one of the world’s most beautiful natural harbours, Sydney Harbour is a postcard-perfect place to enjoy plenty of activities, such as ferry rides, hiking, whale watching, kayaking, or simply people-watching with a beer or cocktail in hand.

Of course, a visit to Sydney Harbour won’t be complete without a bit of swimming in its many famous beaches, like Manly Cove, Chowder Bay, Balmoral Beach and Store Beach. These northside beaches, unlike Murray Rose Pool and Nielsen Park in the Eastern Suburbs, are not fenced or netted. However, if you’re feeling apprehensive about the idea of swimming here because of your fear of sharks, don’t.

We’ll talk about the sharks of Sydney Harbour and what you can do to enjoy the waters here without fearing a shark attack.

Facts and tips about Sydney Harbour sharks

While it’s true that The Big Three or deadliest sharks on the planet; namely, the great white shark, bull shark and tiger shark, are among the many Sydney Harbour regulars, it doesn’t mean you’ll be running into them when you’re there.

In fact, by taking note of the following facts and tips, you can enjoy the best of the harbour worry-free:

Shark facts

  • Many marine animals frequent Sydney and the rest of New South Wales, including sharks. Aside from The Big Three, other sharks that can be found in NSW include bronze whalers, grey nurse sharks, hammerhead sharks, makos, Port Jackson sharks and wobbegongs.
  • Female bull sharks sometimes mate in Sydney Harbour but go to river mouths or estuaries (Northern Rivers) to give birth. Their young may stay in these areas for up to five years.
  • According to shark surveys over the past 10 years, many of the bull sharks in Sydney harbour are juvenile males.
  • The last shark-related fatality was reported on 28 January 1963. The victim was actress Marcia Hathaway who happened to be wading in the water with her friends in Sugarloaf Bay, Middle Harbour.
  • The last known severe shark interaction in Sydney Harbour occurred in February 2009. Paul de Gelder, a 31-year-old Australian Navy diver on a routine anti-terrorism drill, was bitten by a bull shark.
  • Great white sharks tend to stay outside the harbour, patrolling the beaches instead.

Shark avoidance tips

  • Avoid going into the water around dawn and dusk.
  • Do not go swimming or wading three days after rain or when the water is murky.
  • Do not go into the water if you see a lot of baitfish in the area. You’ll know this when you see a lot of birds diving and lots of splashing at or near the surface.
  • Do not venture into areas frequented by recreational or commercial fishers.
  • Stay updated on the movements of tagged sharks by following @NSWSharkSmart on Twitter or by downloading the NSWsharksmart app at the App store.

Other Sydney Harbour marine animal visitors

Now Sydney Harbour is no longer a working harbour, humpback whales can sometimes be seen occasionally venturing through the Heads well into Darling Harbour. If you’re lucky, you’ll see them performing their famous antics like body-rolling and pectoral slapping.

Aside from the whales, more seals continue to visit the harbour. At the moment, there’s a seal regular at Mort Bay on the Balmain Peninsula. Plus we’ve seen seals and sea lions at the Sydney Opera House steps, Manly, Chowder Bay, Rushcutters Bay and Canada Bay. Recently a New Zealand fur seal was sighted all the way up the Parramatta River at Silverwater.

Enjoy the best of Sydney Harbour

There’s always a lot of things to do at Sydney Harbour – whether you’re on land, air or sea.

If you want to go swimming at one of the many beautiful beaches, do so. In fact, you’ll find yourself in a lot of good company. 

As for the sharks of Sydney Harbour, there’s an extremely slim chance of you ever encountering one as long as you follow the tips shared here.

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