Shark Attack Deaths Down In 2014, Yet Florida Leads United States In Bites

Florida once again leads the United States in shark attacks, though 2014 saw a decline in deaths worldwide due to interactions with the predators, according to a recently released analysis.

Last year saw 28 incidents with sharks in Florida waters, and no fatalities, according to a report that was made public last Wednesday by the International Shark Attack File at the University of Florida. The majority of interactions that occurred in Florida were very minor ones, according to George Burgess, the file’s curator, taking place when a shark mistook a human for prey in murky water.

“Most of them are better called bites than attacks,” he noted. “They’re the equivalent of dog bites.”

No fatal attacks occurred anywhere in the United States last year, and just three people worldwide were reportedly killed by a shark. That number is far below the average of 6.3 deaths per year that has been attributed to sharks over the last decade. Australia reported two fatalities due to shark attacks last year, while South Africa reported one. Both areas are considered hotspots for populations of great white sharks.

While the number of attacks worldwide fell from 75 in 2013 to 72 in 2014, the statistics rose slightly for Florida and the United States. The 28 attacks in Florida were preceded by 23 in 2013, and 27 the year before. Though Florida accounted for more than half of the 52 attacks reported in the United States this year, many other states reported shark-related incidents. Hawaii recorded seven attacks, while South Carolina logged five. North Carolina and California each had four, while Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas each accounted for a single shark attack last year.

Earlier this week, Australia logged its first fatal incident of the year, as Japanese surfer Tadashi Nakahara was killed at Ballina beach by a white shark. Nakahara was sitting on his surfboard when he was struck from below by the shark, which severed both of his legs.

Despite the encouraging data, the overall decade to decade trend has been a steady rise in shark attacks. Burgess noted that he expected the pattern to continue, though it only indicates that humans are increasingly in areas where sharks feed, not that the predators have gained a taste for people.

“I am willing to predict that there will be more attacks in the second decade of this century than there were in the first,” he said.

Though he allowed that the fact would provide little comfort to victims, Burgess also pointed out that despite the billions of hours people spend in the water each year, shark attacks remain incredibly rare.

[Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images]