Researchers at the University of Florida report that 2012 was a banner year in terms of shark attacks in the U.S., just not in a good way. According to a new study released earlier this week, there were 53 reported attacks last year. That is a steep increase over 2011, when just 31 attacks were recorded.
Despite the fact that this is the highest total in more than a decade, scientists assure us that there is no indication that sharks are actually getting more aggressive. One of the researchers in charge of the report said that a more likely cause for the high numbers is simple economics. In recent years, the global recession has kept people from traveling as much as they have in the past, which includes going to the beach on their holiday. With fewer people at the beach, the sharks have fewer people to prey upon. But as the economy showed signs of life last year, more people went back into the water.
If you’re looking to reduce your chances of a painful – possibly deadly – shark encounter, you may want to avoid visiting Florida. According to the report, it was the state with the highest number of attacks in 2012 with 26 in total. Hawaii came in a distant second with 10. California had just 5 attacks, but one of those was fatal.
On an international level, Australia was second to the U.S. with a total of 14 attacks despite the fact that it has far more miles of coastline. The country also has almost 300 million fewer people than the States as well, which is a contributing factor as to why the numbers are significantly lower. South Africa was third with four total attack, although three of those were fatal.
Would you wrestle a shark? This British holidaymaker did when he spotted one close to some children on a beach in Queensland, Australia.
Paul Marshallsea, 62, grabbed the two-meter-long dusky shark by the tail and dragged it away from shore. As soon as it got in deeper water, the BBC reports, it turned on him and almost bit his leg.
Dusky sharks have the most powerful bite of any of the 400 shark species. While they aren’t considered one of the most dangerous varieties, they should be treated with caution.
Lifeguards and members of the coast guard were then able to lure the shark into a nearby creek with the hope that it would return to sea with the tide. They said the animal is probably sick and while they praised Marshallsea’s actions, they don’t recommend wrestling sharks.
One swimmer was killed and four others injured in attacks by at least two sharks.
The new safety measures include patrol boats and onshore viewing stations. Swimmers, divers, and snorkelers will be reminded to stay within certain areas and not to feed the sharks.
Sharm el-Sheikh hasn’t had a fatal shark attack since 2004 and it’s unclear why so many incidents have happened in so short a time. One theory is that a boat carrying animals threw some dead carcasses overboard and that encouraged the predators. Another theory says that overfishing has forced sharks to hunt closer to shore, bringing them in contact with humans.
Marine biologists are scratching their heads over the spate of shark attacks near Egypt’s Red Sea port of Sharm El-Sheikh, the BBC reports. The waters near the city, which are popular for swimmers, snorkelers, and scuba divers, have seen attacks that have left one tourist dead and four injured in the past week.
The attacks started last week when a shark bit three tourists in a single day. Since then another swimmer has been injured and last Sunday a German woman was killed very close to the shore. Most of the beaches are now closed and authorities are warning people to swim in groups and avoid swimming at night.
The attacks were carried out by more than one shark from more than one species, including an oceanic whitetip and a mako. Marine biologists say this is “highly unusual”. They’re unsure what has caused the attacks, but suspect that when a cargo ship dumped a load of animal carcasses overboard near the shore it might convinced the sharks that it was a new feeding ground.
The mako has since been caught, but the oceanic whitetip, which is believed to have killed the German woman, is still at large.
Three Russian tourists have been injured by a shark in the waters off Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt, the BBC reports. The Red Sea resort, popular with swimmers and scuba divers, rarely has problems with sharks. It appears to have been an oceanic whitetip, which Jacques Cousteau once called “the most dangerous of all sharks” in his book The Shark: Splendid Savage of the Sea.
One of the victims is in critical condition. Most of the waters around Sharm El-Sheikh have been made off-limits until authorities can capture the shark and release it into the open ocean.
There have been some grim incidents involving sharks in recent months, including the human remains found in the stomach of a shark in the Bahamas. That said, it’s important to remember that the average swimmer has a very low risk of being attacked by one. You’re much more likely to drown. So if you’re into the ocean, keep an eye out for sharks, but be more aware of things like weather and currents.