2017 "average year" for unprovoked shark attacks

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2017 "average year" for unprovoked shark attacks

February 06, 2018 - 20:00
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Despite the fact that there was 88 reported unprovoked shark attacks in 2017, it was considered just an average year, according to the International Shark Attack File.

Fifty-nine percent of the attacks worldwide involved board sports. French said this group spends a large amount of time in the surf zone, an area commonly frequented by sharks.

In 2017, there had been 88 reported unprovoked shark attacks worldwide. Although this figure is an increase from the most recent five-year annual average of 83, it is pretty much considered to be an "average year", according to Lindsay French, who manages the University of Florida International Shark Attack File (ISAF).

The ISAF is the world's only scientifically documented, comprehensive database of all known shark attacks.

She explained that the slightly higher than average numbers were expected as human populations increased and people spent more time in the water. "While we don’t put too much emphasis on year-to-year changes, a slight increase is expected as beach tourism and water sports gain in popularity," she added.

Of the 88 attacks, 60 occured in the United States, with Florida seeing the highest number of attacks than any other American state. The country with the next highest number of attacks was Australia, with 14.

Fifty-nine percent of the attacks involved board sports. Those who took part in such sports spend a lot of time in the surf zone, which happens to be an area frequented by sharks.

“We need to remember we’re going into a shark’s natural habitat when we enter the water,” French said.

“Water sport activities often unintentionally attract sharks because of splashing, paddling, kicking and wiping out. But the number of unprovoked attacks is remarkably low considering the billions of people who participate in water sports each year," she said.

In contrast, the number of shark attack fatalities dropped from the average of six to five in 2017. In the United States, no shark attack fatality was reported for the second consecutive year.

“The hotspots we’re keeping an eye on are Ascension Island, which had its first attacks since the 1800s, and Reunion Island, which had two of last year’s five fatalities,” said French. Ascension Island experienced two attacks, while Reunion Island experienced three attacks and two fatalities.

The Bahamas, Costa Rica, Indonesia and South Africa each had two attacks, with one fatality occurring in Costa Rica. Single attacks were reported in Brazil, the Canary Islands, Cuba, Egypt, England, Japan, the Maldives and New Zealand, with Cuba’s attack resulting in its first fatality since the 1930s.

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