Shark encounters on Australia's coastline could become more commonplace as the La Nina weather pattern drives increased rainfall and changes in ocean conditions.
There were seven fatal shark attacks in 2020 and an expert says sightings might remain common.
There were 22 reported unprovoked 'confrontations' between people and sharks in 2020, leaving seven people dead and another 10 injured.
Researcher Blake Chapman said that while 22 is at the top end of 'normal', it isn't a cause for alarm.
"People shouldn't be out there really alarmed or terrified or making rash judgments based on what we've seen, but it's really important to be aware," the specialist, with a Ph.D. in shark neuroscience, said.
Rather than directly affecting shark behaviour, Dr. Chapman said changes in the ocean could be influencing where the predators find food.
"When we talk about white sharks, for example, their movement patterns often strongly reflect that of their prey," she said.
For example, if currents shift Australian salmon closer to shore, sharks could follow.
"I would never say that sharks are targeting humans," Dr. Chapman said.
"Analysis of behaviour and bite patterns don't tend to support that in most of the cases, but tracking their normal prey could still be their motivation for coming closer to shore."
Charles Cernobori, 59, a Broome hotel worker, was killed at the city's Cable Beach in November.
He was bodyboarding about 40 metres offshore when attacked by what is suspected to have been a tiger shark.
Mr. Cernobori's death was one of three fatal shark attacks in WA in 2020, with others recorded in NSW and Queensland. Sightings and encounters were reported from every state and territory coastline across the year.
Inland waterways might also be experiencing an increase in shark habitation.
High rainfall resulting in greater amounts of freshwater flowing from rivers to the ocean could be influencing the behaviour of bull sharks given their competitive advantage in low-salinity environments.
"Sydney Harbour, for example, can be an ideal environment for bull sharks when the temperature is right, and especially after heavy rainfall," Dr. Chapman said.
No mitigation measures are 100 percent effective, but Dr. Chapman said education and surveillance were two of the best tools to reduce shark risk.
"Know what the risks are, know what species are in that area, and take the time to get a sense of how these animals are using the environment," she said.
Dolphins or diving birds are a sign of bait fish in the area, and smelly air or water points to a food source nearby.
"Avoid those conditions, and if there's a whale carcass known to be in the area, then definitely think critically about going in the water," Dr. Chapman said.
"If the sharks are coming in with a predatory motivation, we shouldn't be putting ourselves in an environment that carries added risk."
Overall, Dr Chapman said people shouldn't be constantly worried about the threat of shark attacks and that the risk remained low.