Shark attacks worldwide in 2018 dropped significantly from the year before as 66 unprovoked shark bites were reported compared to 88 in 2017, a whopping 26 percent drop from the most recent five-year average of 84 incidents annually.
The University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File also announced Monday that four attacks proved fatal, which is closer to the annual average of six deaths worldwide.
The U.S. led the world in attacks with 32 bites, but that was a drop from 53 in the previous year.
“Statistically, this is an anomaly,” Gavin Naylor of the Florida Museum of Natural History’s shark research program said of the steep 2018 decline. “It begs the question of whether we’re seeing fewer bites because there are fewer sharks – that would be the ‘glass half-empty’ interpretation. Or it could be that the general public is heeding the advice of beach safety officials. My hope is that the lower numbers are a consequence of people becoming more aware and accepting of the fact that they’re sharing the ocean with these animals.”
More from the International Shark Attack File:
Naylor said press coverage of two great white shark bites in Cape Cod, Massachusetts – one of which was fatal – and the uncommon phenomenon of two bites occurring within minutes of one another off Fire Island, New York, gave the illusion that 2018 was a “a big year for shark bites.”
But in reality, total unprovoked bites decreased in the U.S. and abroad, with a few exceptions. The ISAF defines unprovoked shark attacks are those initiated by a shark in its natural habitat…
Florida, which annually tops the leaderboard for attacks in the U.S., reported 16 unprovoked bites, down from 31 in 2017, and Volusia County, the shark attack capital of the world, had four bites, compared to nine the year before….
Hawaii, North Carolina and South Carolina had three bites each; two bites occurred in Massachusetts and New York; and California, Georgia and Texas reported single bites.
Among other highlights from the ISAF report include:
- Fifty-three percent of the attacks involved board sports, as surfers are typically in the surf zone where they produce water disturbance that could attract sharks.
- There have been far fewer blacktip sharks along the Florida coast in the past two to three years, and Naylor said that would be consistent with the number of bites being a little lower in past years.
- Australia saw an increase in shark attacks with 20, including one fatality. The region’s five-year average is 14 bites.
- After appearing to be a hotspot for shark attacks the past few years, Reunion and Ascension islands reported no bites in 2018. Naylor attributed that to stringent attack mitigation strategies.
- Only about 5 percent of shark species were involved in these attacks.
Naylor said Cape Cod is an area to keep an eye on after two great white shark attacks, including that community’s first fatality in 82 years. As local seal populations expand, so do the number of great white sharks in the area.
“An increase in sharks is a symptom of restoring healthy oceans,” Naylor said. “What the public needs to do is become informed about these animals, understand their behavior patterns and listen to the guidelines issued by beach safety patrols.”
Photos from Wikipedia Commons.
Shark attacks worldwide in 2018 dropped notably from the year before as 66 unprovoked shark bites were reported compared to 88 in 2017.