The death of a British man who was mauled by a great white shark off the coast of Australia has been officially classified as an ‘unprovoked incident’.
Simon Nellist, 35, was swimming in the waters off Sydney when the 15-foot-long beast attacked him on Feb. 16, 2022. He died as a result of his injuries, making him Sydney’s first shark attack fatality in 60 years.
Cornish-born Mr Nellist, a former RAF gunner who survived two tours of Afghanistan, died just 150 yards from horrified beachgoers at Little Bay, east of the Australian town.
At the time, his devastated family paid tribute to the ‘proud Cornishman’ who had made Australia his home with his fiancé Jessie.
Now, according to a report from the International Shark Attack File, Mr Nellist’s tragic death has been classified as an ‘unprovoked incident’.
Simon Nellist (pictured) was mauled by a shark in an unprotected stretch of water near Sydney’s Little Bay in February 2022
Gavin Naylor, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research, has said there are a number of reasons for the “provoked incident” classification given to Mr. Nellist’s death.
The International Shark Attack File documents all shark attack incidents around the world, classifying each incident according to their circumstances.
Gavin Naylor, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research, has said there are a number of reasons for the “provoked incident” classification.
In an email to the YouTube channel sharkbytes shown in a video in February, Mr Naylor said Mr Nellist’s death is not included in the unprovoked attack statistics ‘because we don’t consider it an unprovoked incident’.
“While Mr. Nellist did nothing knowingly to provoke an incident, he was swimming in an area where people were fishing,” he said. ‘Fishing is an activity that attracts sharks. We therefore consider it provoked for our purposes.”
He explained that the report is “diligent” when it comes to focusing on incidents considered unprovoked to understand “the natural behavior” of sharks.
“Any factor that attracts sharks to an area (fishing, chumming, scallops, etc.) not typical,” he told the YouTube channel.
Shark conservationists say the animals don’t view humans as food, but are often involved in incidents involving humans hunting prey similar in size to humans, such as dolphins or seals.
According to the World Wildlife Organization, “You’re more likely to be struck by lightning than to be attacked by a shark,” and conservationists have been working to dispel myths surrounding sharks that often reappear when there’s an attack.
Nellist was the first person since the 1960s to be killed by a shark in the Sydney area. Pictured: A boat patrols the scene of the deadly February 2022 shark attack (file photo)
It comes after 16-year-old Stella Berry was attacked and killed by a bull shark in the country in February. Robert Harcourt, honorary professor of marine ecology at Macquarie University, told the Mail: “Most sharks are actually pretty cautious about taking anything that’s a new type of prey.”
He said sharks mostly feed on small or medium-sized prey, and humans aren’t typically “high on their list.”
But he added that sharks can prey on humans. “The Little Bay case (Mr. Nellist’s death) was a case of the shark coming in to date,” he said.
“Sharks are just like any animal living in the wild, they’re curious and there are pretty strong hierarchies when sharks interact.
“They can be intimidated by things bigger than themselves. Seals and dolphins will chase great whites en masse, they will harass them.”
Speaking at the time of his death, Mr Nellist’s family said: “Simon had a great passion for nature and the sea and was also a very talented photographer.’
They said they would ‘miss him terribly’ and added, ‘Simon was a gentle, kind and wonderful human being. He was a cherished fiancée, son, brother, uncle and friend.
“Simon was funny, compassionate and always had time for people. He had the rare gift of making direct contact with others and gaining their trust and respect.’
It turned out that Mr Nellist was killed just days before safety lines were to be installed to prevent sharks from getting close to shore. Sydney authorities had signed off on work for the area where he died before the end of February.
Relatives said his distraught mother wondered ‘how could he return unscathed from the front line (of Afghanistan) and then go to Australia, go for a swim and be killed’.
On his passing, Mr Nellist’s devastated family said he was a ‘proud Cornishman’ who had made Australia his home with his fiancé Jessie (pictured right)
Mr. Nellist’s family told MailOnline that he would not want the animal destroyed.
He was the first person since the 1960s to be killed by a shark in the area.
His aunt Jacqui Seager, 62, said: ‘I don’t think Simon would want the shark killed. He loved nature.
“He’s swum with sharks before. This isn’t the first time he goes out and sees them, but he would still go for a swim. That’s brave. I don’t think he ever thought they would hurt him. Unfortunately, we managed to reach him this time.’