Florida leads states in shark attacks during average year worldwide

Posted at 3:10 AM, Feb 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-07 04:58:19-05

(WTXL) - Florida saw more reported unprovoked shark attacks in 2017 than any other state, but worldwide the year for such incidents was just average, according to University of Florida records.

There were 88 reported unprovoked shark attacks and five fatalities worldwide, the University of Florida International Shark Attack File reveals.

Florida had 31 attacks, while Volusia County led the state with nine, 29 percent of Florida's total, said Lindsay French, who manages the database.

In the U.S., other states reporting attacks were South Carolina (10), Hawaii (6), California (2), with single incidents in Massachusetts, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia.

While the 88 reported attacks are slightly higher than the most recent five-year annual average of 83, the five fatalities are just below the average of six deaths per year.

Of the 88 attacks, 60 percent (53) occurred in the U.S. Australia had the second-highest number of attacks with 14, including one fatality.

French said the slightly higher than average attack numbers were expected as human populations continue to climb and people spend more time in the water.

"It really was just an average year, and significantly, the U.S. saw no shark attack fatalities for the second consecutive year," French said. "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.

Worldwide, Reunion Island had three unprovoked attacks and two fatalities. Ascension Island, the Bahamas, Costa Rica, Indonesia and South Africa each had two attacks, with one fatality occurring in Costa Rica.

Brazil, the Canary Islands, Cuba, Egypt, England, Japan, the Maldives and New Zealand reported single attacks, with Cuba’s attack resulting in the country’s first fatality since the 1930s.

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.

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