Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images
Florida has retained its title of shark bite capital of the world, according to new figures, but the number of such attacks on humans worldwide is at the collective lowest level in a decade.
There were 57 unprovoked shark bites around the world in 2022, most of which occurred in the United States and Australia, according to the University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File, a reputable source that released its annual data Monday.
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Of those, 16 occurred in Florida, where there were no fatalities, but two amputations.
Five of the attacks worldwide were fatal — up from nine deaths in 2021 and ten in the previous year, the university’s researchers found.
“In general, the number of sharks in the world’s oceans has been declining, which may have contributed to the recent lulls,” said Gavin Naylor of the Florida Museum of Natural History.
“It’s likely that fatalities have dropped because some areas have recently implemented strict beach safety protocols, especially in Australia,” said Naylor, the director of the Florida shark research program.
While the total number matches the 2020 figure as the lowest over a 10-year period, there were regional “hot spots”. Among them was Long Island, New York, which saw a record eight – researchers believe those came mainly from young sand tiger sharks drawn to the surf zone by an influx of baitfish.
“When fish are particularly dense where people swim and visibility is poor, young sharks, who lack the experience of older animals, are more likely to mistake a swimmer’s foot for their intended prey,” Naylor said.
The US as a whole saw the most bites recorded with 41. One was fatal: a female snorkeler in Hawaii in December.
Australia had nine confirmed unprovoked bites, according to the study, and some bites occurred in New Zealand, Thailand and Brazil.
Two fatal attacks occurred on the same day in Egypt’s Red Sea, where shark encounters are considered rare. South Africa, which averages a few bites per year, had two unprovoked attacks in 2022, both of which were fatal and likely caused by white sharks.
Naylor said the shark attack file strongly emphasized unprovoked bites and did not include cases likely caused by extenuating circumstances, such as fishing lines near an attack or comrade in the water.
There were 32 additional bites in 2022 that met the criteria of the file “intentionally or unintentionally provoked,” according to the data.
“Unprovoked bites give us significantly more insight into shark biology and behavior,” Naylor said.
“Changing the environment so that sharks are drawn to the area in search of their natural food source may encourage them to bite humans when they otherwise wouldn’t.”
At least two deaths from shark attacks have been recorded worldwide so far this year: a diver who was beheaded off the Mexican coast in January, and a 16-year-old Australian girl who was bitten by a suspected bull shark in the Swan River in Perth. the past weekend.
Despite the publicity such incidents generate, shark attacks on humans remain extremely rare.
According to the website floridapanhandle.com, which compiles and maintains a rolling database of attacks independent of the University of Florida research, the fear of a shark bite outweighs reality. People are much more likely to be killed by a flying champagne cork, accidental poisoning, or falling coconuts, says that website.
“The chance of being attacked by a shark is almost zero,” said the source’s founder, David Angotti. “For people living in the US, you are about 50 times more likely to die from a lightning strike and 10 times more likely to die from a fireworks accident compared to a shark attack.”