Shark attacks have increased globally

The number of reported shark attacks last year increased worldwide according to the annual report of the University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File. n 2010, 79 attacks occurred around the world, the highest number since 2000 (80 attacks), but the global total of six fatalities was only slightly above the average. Attacks worldwide numbered 63 in 2009, close to the annual average over the past 10 years of 63.5.

“Based on odds, you should have more attacks than the previous year,” says George Burgess, who manages the Shark Attack File  But he  says that the rate of attacks is not necessarily going up — the human  population is rising and the interest in aquatic recreation is growing with more and more people  in the water annually, thus increasing the chances of encounters.

 In 2010 the U.S. led the world in shark attacks — an average year by U.S. standards — followed by Australia (14), South Africa (8), Vietnam (6) and Egypt (6). The most unusual event occurred off the coast of Egypt in early December 2010 with five attacks, including one fatality. These attacks occurred within five days and four of the five were attributed to two individual sharks.

“This was a situation that was hugely unusual by shark attack standards,” said Burgess, who has researched sharks at the museum for more than 35 years. “It was probably the most unusual shark incident of my career.”

He  suggests the attacks in the Red Sea may be attributed to a combination of natural and human factors. Some of the reasons include higher water temperatures caused by an unusually hot summer, international livestock traders dumping sheep carcasses into the water and divers feeding reef fishes and sharks, he said.

Surfers were the victims of slightly more than half of the incidents reported in 2010, nearly 51 percent of the cases. An economic downturn will usually influence tourists but not necessarily surfers, whose sport is relatively low-cost, Burgess said. Swimmers and waders were the second-largest group affected, accounting for nearly 38 percent of the shark attacks internationally.

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Photo: NOAA's National Ocean Service Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

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