Unprovoked shark attacks across the globe rose to ninety-eight last year, making it the highest annual rate of shark attacks on record, according to shark experts.
Ever since 1958, the Florida Museum of Natural History kept the International Shark Attack File (ISAF), which is a global database on shark attacks. Based on the data, year 2015 had the highest rate of unprovoked shark attacks, followed by year 2000 with eighty-eight attacks.
Off the coast of the United States, there were a total of fifty-nine unprovoked shark attacks in 2015; Florida led with thirty attacks, followed by North Carolina and South Carolina – with eight attacks each. Australia came in second with eighteen attacks, and then South Africa in third with a total of eight shark attacks.
Neil Hammerschlag, Director of the Shark Research and Conservation Program at the University of Miami, said that the data is being delivered out of context. Some of the ‘attacks’ were in fact just non-lethal encounters, he explained.
In 2015, the fatality rate was about 6.5 percent, with a total of six deaths, compared with 2000 (where there were not as many ‘attacks’ as in 2015) when the death rate was approximately 12.5, with eleven deaths. According to the International Shark Attack File, the numbers are really low given the fact that humans spend a lot of hours in the water every year.
Since shark populations are actually declining worldwide, the higher rates of encounters and attacks may be due to people spending more time in the water, according to shark experts.
The state of Florida – which had thirty attacks (more than South Africa and Australia combined) – has seen a boost in tourists in 2015. Florida Gov. Rick Scott said that almost eight million visitors came to Florida in November.
George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File, said that the number of shark encounters and shark attacks may increase with each year. With warming ocean temperatures, more attacks might take place north of California in the west and Virginia in the east, according to Burgess.
Even so, the odds of unprovoked shark attacks will still be quite low, experts say.
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