Angry sharks, you’d rather not encounter them, but last year there were 69 unfortunate people to whom the terrifying fish managed to bite. That’s more than the five-year average of 63 shark attacks per year.
Ten of those attacks were fatal in 2023. The year before there were only five. More than a fifth of the sharks struck in Australia, and four out of ten deaths also occurred in that country. In the US, two people died from a shark bite and in the Bahamas, Egypt and Mexico, a swimmer did not survive a shark attack. That appears from the new annual report of the University of Florida, not entirely coincidentally, a state where relatively many people are bitten by a shark. “The number of shark bites is still within normal averages, although the number of deaths is a bit worrying this year,” said Gavin Naylor of the Shark Research Program. Florida Museum of Natural History.
Especially surfers like it
In the US, 36 people were attacked by a shark, more than half of the total number. The best chance of getting a vicious shark chasing you is in Florida. Sixteen attacks took place there in 2023. This only concerns bites by sharks that were not harassed by humans. Knowingly approaching a shark or swimming in an area where bait is being used for fishing all constitute solicitation. “We are biologists and we want to understand the natural behavior of the animals, not the unnatural behavior,” Naylor said. There were 22 provoked shark traps last year, mainly by spearfishing, according to the report.
Surfers are the most likely victims of sharks, followed closely by swimmers. In addition to white sharks, you should also be careful for bull sharks in Australia. “The beaches are very safe, but in remote areas, where there is no lifeguard, you have a higher risk of a fatal shark attack,” says researcher Joe Miguez. “That’s because a lifeguard can quickly stop arterial bleeding with a tourniquet to save your life. So the solution is not not to surf, but to surf in areas where there is a good lifeguard.”
And another reassurance: most attacks are test bites. These happen when the shark mistakes a human for its prey. The shark will then normally swim away after the first bite. But some species, such as the great white shark and the tiger shark, are large enough to kill you with a single bite. Moreover, it sometimes happens that these species bite more often.
Did you know
most sharks are not dangerous at all. There are 548 species. Only 13 are known to have bitten a human more than ten times.
In recent decades, the number of bites by white sharks has increased significantly. This is not because the animals have become more aggressive, but because more people go into the ocean and because registration has improved. We are generally overly afraid of sharks, even though the chances of the animals grabbing you are incredibly low. In fact, the chance that you will win the lottery is higher and that is not something you seriously take into account.
A warm weekend
It is possible that a shark will bite if a lot of people are looking for relatively dangerous places. Something as simple as very warm weather over the weekend in Florida can cause a sudden increase in attacks. For example, the water quality around New York has also improved over the past two decades. As a result, there are now more fish, which in turn leads to more marine mammals, such as whales and dolphins near the coast. And more fish usually means more sharks.
As a result, there were several shark bites in a few weeks last summer, including the first shark attack in New York in more than half a century. A 65-year-old woman was seriously injured. “That caused a lot of fear, but the reality is you have a lot of people in the water on a hot day with bait,” Naylor said.
The vast majority of shark bites logically occur during the summers in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Then there are more people in the water and many species are more active. Although the chance of a shark bite is incredibly small and you really don’t have to worry, the researchers have come up with a few tips to make the chance even smaller: stay close to the coast, don’t go swimming at sunrise or in the twilight and avoid extreme splashing. So no jokes if you go swimming in an area with sharks.
It Florida Museum of Natural History has been keeping track since 1580 how many people worldwide are bitten by a shark. Since that year, more than 3,300 attacks have been recorded. In about a fifth of cases, such a bite is fatal.