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Dublin: 20°C Tuesday 9 August 2022

Shark attacks worldwide are at an all-time high

Attacks involving the sea’s most notorious predators were at their highest in 2015 since records began.

P8112166 A great white shark Source: Elias Levy

2015 MAY HAVE seemed like the year of the shark given the sheer number of attacks by the aquatic predators reported.

Well it seems 2015 actually WAS the year of the shark – it was the worst year for shark attacks on record according to a long-running database on the subject.

The International Shark Attack File (ISAF) has been running since 1958 with over 5,800 individual records of reported, unprovoked attacks.

Last year 164 incidents of shark-human interaction were investigated by the ISAF. Of these 98 were designated as being unprovoked attacks, ie they occurred in the shark’s natural habitat with no antagonistic behaviour on behalf of the people involved.

That figure is 10 greater than the previous high – 88 in 2000.
6.1% of the unprovoked attacks, six people in total, proved fatal, which is actually just over half the 11 such fatal attacks in 2000. So sharks may be attacking us more, but they’ve regressed when it comes to killing us outright.

map Source: ISAF

Click here to view a larger image

In fact, the number of fatal attacks last year is on a par with the average seen over most of the last two decades.

The waters off Florida accounted for over 30% of unprovoked attacks last year, with 30 shark bites recorded.

The fatal attacks seen last year meanwhile were two on the island of Réunion (the island on which debris from the missing Malaysian Airlines flight 370 washed up last September), and one each in Australia, New Caledonia, Hawaii, and Egypt.

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Surfers were the sharks’ attack subject of choice with them accounting for 49% of attacks.

The growth in shark attacks is directly correlated with the spread of the human population according to George Burgess, curator of the ISAF at the University of Florida.

“As world population continues its upsurge and interest in aquatic recreation concurrently rises, we realistically should expect increases in the number of shark attacks and other aquatic recreation-related injuries,” he said.

If shark populations remain the same or increase in size, one might predict more attacks each year than the previous year because more people are in the water.

Fortunately the more deadly variety of shark tends to steer clear of the cold water in Ireland’s part of the world. But what should we do should we be unlucky enough to find ourselves in a do-or-die situation with a hungry great white?

“If one is attacked by a shark, we advise a proactive response,” says Burgess.

Hitting a shark on the nose, ideally with an inanimate object, usually results in the shark temporarily curtailing its attack.
One should try to get out of the water at this time.  If this is not possible, repeated blows to the snout may offer a temporary reprieve, but the result is likely to become increasingly less effective.

Read: A shark swallowed another shark in an aquarium

Read: Huge shark jumps three metres onto fishing boat

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