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Shark Decline Takes Bite out of Attacks

The Science of Shark Attacks and How to Avoid

The ocean is becoming more human-friendly, but the reasons are not all nice.

Shark attacks worldwide totaled 62 in 2006, up slightly from the previous year but down from 79 in 2000. Four people were killed by sharks in 2006, the same number as in 2005 and down from 11 in 2000.

The decline in recent years is due in part to the fact that fewer sharks swarm near the shore, the result of more sharks being being killed every year, said George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File at the University of Florida.

“This was a nice dull year and we love dull years because it means there are fewer serious attacks and fewer victims,” Burgess said. “It’s really quite remarkable when you have only four people a year die in the mouth of a shark and puts in perspective how small shark attack is as a phenomenon.”

Another factor keeping a lid on attack numbers: People are getting smarter about where and when to get into the water, he said.

“They’re starting to see that when they enter the sea, they’re engaging in a wilderness experience as opposed to entering the equivalent of a backyard pool,” he said.

Attacks were highest in the United States, dipping slightly from 40 in 2005 to 38 in 2006. In 2000, a record 53 attacks were recorded.

Florida continued to lead the country with 23 attacks, up from 19 in 2005 but lower than the annual average of 33 between 2000 and 2003.

Elsewhere in the world, Burgess tracked seven attacks in Australia, four in South Africa, three in Brazil, and two in the Bahamas.

Live Science Staff
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