Shark attack statistics for 2014 were released last week, revealing that the most dangerous state in the U.S. when it comes to shark-human encounters was Florida. But overall, fatal shark attacks dropped sharply worldwide, and the total number of shark attacks against humans was down by a tick.
But researchers at the University of Florida say that even though the total number of shark attacks recorded around the globe last year was just 72, compared to 75 in 2013, the long-term trend of increasing numbers of shark attacks appears unlikely to reverse anytime soon.
“I am willing to predict that there will be more attacks in the second decade of this century than there were in the first,” said George Burgess, who manages shark attack data at the University of Florida’s natural history museum.
The University of Florida in Gainesville compiles an annual report, recording every reported shark attack anywhere in the world. In its report, the university highlights only “unprovoked” shark attacks, excluding those in which the shark has been hooked by fishermen or otherwise “provoked” by humans before attacking.
The upward trend in shark attack numbers, despite the slight drop in 2014, is not the result of any kind of increased aggressiveness on the part of the sharks, the researchers say, but instead is the result of human beings spending more of their time in the shark’s natural habitat — the ocean.
As human beings devote more time to water-related recreational activities, such as surfing and other aquatic sports, the more likely they are to come in contact with the ocean’s permanent residents — sharks.
Australia led the world in fatal shark attacks in 2014 with two. But around the world, only one other person was killed by a shark, in an attack that occurred off the coast of South Africa. The three fatalities were less than half of the 6.3 annual fatalities that have occurred on average for the past decade.
In addition to the two fatalities, 11 others were injured by shark attacks in Australia last year.
While Florida did not experience a fatal attack in 2014, the state continued its run as the United States leader in shark attacks with 28. Second-place Hawaii recorded just seven.
According to the University of Florida statistics, California recorded four shark attacks last year, but a report by the nonprofit, west coast-based Shark Research Committee put the number of California attacks at six. The difference may have resulted from varying definitions of what constitutes an “unprovoked” shark attack.
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