Sharks killed a dozen people worldwide in 2011, a two-decade high as tourists ventured into waters in remote areas far from medical care, Florida researchers say.
Australia had three shark attack fatalities and there were two each in Reunion, the Seychelles and South Africa, and one each in Costa Rica, Kenya and New Caledonia
No fatalities occurred in the United States, which saw a five-year downturn in the number of reported unprovoked shark attacks said the director of the International Shark Attack File from the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida.
'We had a number of fatalities in out-of the way places, where there's not the same quantity and quality of medical attention readily available,' Burgess said. 'They also don't have histories of shark attacks in these regions, so there are not contingency plans in effect like there are in places such as Florida.'
Despite the increased number of deaths last year, humans still pose a much greater risk to sharks than sharks do to humans.
The bottom line is that these animals have an unfairly dangerous
reputation - thanks to Hollywood - and your chances of being wacked
by a great white are smaller than being killed in a household
• You have more chance of being hit on the
head by a coconut or bitten by a New Yorker than being bitten
by a shark.
• Sharks prefer eating fish or seals
to humans. A human bite is usually a mistake.
• They don't
usually assault something bigger
• If it circles you it is probably just curious, not hungry.
• On average sharks kill 5 humans a year, but up to 75 million sharks are killed over the same period, mostly to provide
the fins for shark fin soup. We should be enjoying viewing and
protecting these animals, not eating them!
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Shark Attack Hot Spots 2012
Western Australia and Reunion Island near Madagascar have been named as the new global hotspots for shark attacks in an annual survey.
The two locations - on either side of the Indian Ocean, though about 3700 miles (6000 kms) apart - have suffered regular shark maulings according to the recently released International Shark Attack File.
There were 80 unprovoked shark attacks, including seven fatalities, worldwide in 2012, slightly more than 2011, according to the survey conducted by the University of Florida.
While Australia had an 'average year' with 14 attacks and two fatalities, it is the second consecutive year for multiple shark attacks in Western Australia (WA) and Reunion Island, a French territory located in the Indian Ocean.
WA had five attacks and Reunion Island three.
Western Australia had mainly white shark incidents and Reunion bull shark incidents.
Of the 80 attacks worldwide, 53 were in the US, the highest number in a decade. The majority were in Florida with 26 recorded attacks, followed by Hawaii with ten attacks.
Four attacks occurred in South Africa, three of which resulted in death.
While the figures show a growth in the number of attacks worldwide, the report stated that it probably reflects the increasing amount of time spent in the sea by humans.
Surfers experienced the majority of shark incidents last year, with 60 per cent, followed by swimmers with 22 per cent and divers with 8 per cent.
Australians could reduce the risk of shark attacks by avoiding areas and times when sharks are most common. In Western Australia people have been getting hit in areas of known white shark abundance at times of the year when shark numbers are at their highest. It is our responsibility to stay out of the water at these times.
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Photo by Albert Kok
The most dangerous sharks
The sharks most likely to go for humans are the larger mammal
eating variety as they have the biggest bite and humans look
far more like seals than fish. 45% of attacks are on surfers.
1- Bull sharks are more dangerous than the Great White, attack more or less anything, pump more testosterone
than a bull elephant and attack more humans than any other shark.
The bull shark likes murky water and has a higher tolerance to fresh/brackish water than other shark species which is why they can be found swimming in rivers. People often don’t expect sharks in rivers where, to make things worse, the water is often muddy and unclear. They often swim into rivers such as the Mississipi
and the Ganges.
What are the lessons ?
Know the local environment before you jump in to the nearest inviting fresh water near the sea such as an estuary. Southern USA and Australia are the worst places for bull sharks penetrating waterways quite a long way inland.
Tiger shark photo by Albert Kok
2- Tiger sharks are also very dangerous; up to
6m long they usually like deep water in the daytime and shallow water
at night. They feed mainly at night.
Great White shark photo by Sharkdiver68
are the species portrayed in the film 'Jaws'. This is the biggest
shark in the sea that doesn't eat plankton, growing up to thirty
feet and dining mostly on seals.
Dangerous mainly because one
mistaken bite is enough to kill. The Whale Shark is actually the biggest shark, but completely harmless.
Oceanic Whitetip shark photo by OldakQuill
Whitetips, not to be confused with the White-Tipped Reef
Shark; very dangerous; prefers deep water; unpredictable behaviour,
will attack anything indiscriminately.
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There are three
kinds of attack
Hit and run: usually a single strike in a surf area as a result
of mistaken identity or territorial dominance. Injuries are minor.
Bump and bite: the animal is hungry and surveys the prey in
decreasing circles, bumping it to get an initial flavour. After
the bump comes the bite, if you're tasty enough. Neoprene probably
wouldn't fit the bill. Repeat visits are common and injuries severe.
Sudden strike: often by the Great White. Repeat visits are
common and injuries severe.
Avoiding an attack
Don't go alone
- these animals tend to go for lone prey as their senses can tune
in better on the target and they like easy meat. Sharks, like all predators, tend to go after solitary individuals, the weak and the infirm, and are less likely to attack people or fish in groups.
Furthermore, since great whites and tiger sharks tend to retreat
after the first bite it's useful to have victim assistance nearby.
- while it is true that some attacks happen in shallow water,
more often sharks travel around steep drop offs or near river
mouths, as that is where their natural food congregates.
swim or surf in
- mistaken identity is generally the reason that people are attacked
and in surf and/or murky water hungry critters can see you less
well. Then again, you can't see them at all!
go for dawn/dusk/night swims
- the favoured hunting time and poor vision time for you.
go in if there's blood -
sharks can smell it many miles away so don't enter the water with
open wounds, near where people are fishing/spear fishing, or near
ocean garbage, and ladies should not go in during their monthly
wear jewellery -
a shark's vision is not that great as they rely on vibrations
or electrical signals in the water. However they do pick up on
contrasting tones of dark and light very well which help them
catch shiny fish.
Highly contrasting wetsuits (e.g. black and white), swimsuits
or jewellery may get part of you mistaken for a fish.
- wear a wetsuit, nothing like the taste of neoprene to put you
off your dinner!
if you see a shark, leave the water as quietly and quickly as
possible, or stay still and vertical (i.e. unlike a seal)
swim where others have been attacked
sharks do strike twice, unlike lightning.
recreational groups most attacked are
surfers, with bathers second. Surfers splash a lot in surf conditions
which making it easier for sharks to mistake their identity. Surfers
also spend the greatest proportion of time in the water. Since
1980 over 300 surfers worldwide have been mauled by sharks.
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If you're being circled or otherwise inspected
and surfers - if the shark is circling you it may be just curious and checking
its territory but if it continues circling and seems hungry try
to look the opposite of its regular entreé - a seal. In
other words don't splash and get/stay vertical.
Another preventative measure is to join hands with another person,
making your combined profile much bigger than the shark will wish
to attack. Japanese pearl divers used to take off their loincloth
and trail it in the water, increasing the apparent size of the
If you're attacked
and surfers - look around the surface and below for a shadow, punch and kick
at the animal's nose and eyes if a repeat attack occurs*. Shout
for help and if you think surf savvy bathers or lifeguard are
present, the sign that you are in trouble is one arm raised high
- do not wave with one arm, you may just get greeted back.
If you need to wave use both arms or try the international divers
shark sign of finger tips together - like a dorsal fin.
Get out of the water as fast as possible but without panicked
splashing; swim smoothly and you will go faster.
Your flippers will work best and attract fewer predatory fish
if they don't splash, so learn how to use them properly.
really! Some surfers at a competition in Florida 2001 were attacked
repeatedly by several sharks. They literally punched and kicked
the menacing fish away from their boards because they wanted to
get on with the competition. Some lacerations resulted but all
the surfers lived to tell the tale.
British surfer was attacked by a Great White in South Africa in 2005. It grabbed
his leg and dragged him along, however he punched and kicked the
beast and lived to tell the tale on national television!
a helping hand:
If you see someone under attack, go to help them. It's unknown
for a shark to go for the help, they like to focus.
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If you have weapons, use them. If not, try to hit the shark's
eyes or nose with anything - your camera, a rock or your fist.
Look Great Whites in the eye. Really! They prefer to attack things
that are not looking at them!
These animals like to attack from the side or below so you could
find cover protected by rocks.
If you see the shark going around in ever decreasing circles,
and even brushing you, expect an attack. If it then heads for
you, twitching and jerking - unlike the usual smooth glide - make
yourself into a small ball. When the big fish is closer, suddenly
snap into a maximum size starfish shape. This apparently confuses
the fish's primitive visual apparatus.
If you have a dive buddy - which you should have- holding him/her
gives the beast the impression that you are bigger than it.
Remain calm and remember a panicked resurface could give you the
bends and kill you.
most reported attacks:
1. The USA has the highest incidence of shark incidents in the
world but one of the reasons for this is the large amount of recreational
marine activity that goes on in the region.
Florida is worst affected with around 60% of all cases in the
country; the entire east coast has a growing problem with aggressive
sharks. California follows at around 15%.
3. Central and South America
4. Australia and the Pacific Islands
recorded incidents in the USA resulting in death:
Bull shark on kitesurfer, 4.15pm, Stuart Beach, Martin County, Florida.
Email from John Peery of both Marin County, California and Martin County, Florida, 2011:
Bull sharks are often spotted at, and dangerous visitors in and around, Stuart FL (I've seen them from the air, in a low-flying plane, swimming among human swimmers, while white sharks are common around San Francisco, both north (Marin County) of, and south of (San Mateo and Santa Cruz Counties), at some of the best surfing spots. This is an important distinction, because one of areas of most common sightings in Northern California is the shallow water at Stinson Beach in MARIN County, just north of San Francisco. Stinson Beach, is a favorite spot to take kids for boogie boarding, in part because the water is shallow and wave action subdued, and in part because it's easier to spot the whites there, and get people out of the water. The local lifeguards are very good at spotting the unwanted visitors. They immediately close the beach.
2009, September, shark species unknown, swimming at dusk, Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina.
2008, April, Great White on triathlete swimmer, 7.20 am, Solana Beach, California.
2005, June, Bull shark on boogie boarder, Walton County, Florida.
2004, April, Tiger shark on surfer, Pohaku Park, Maui, Hawaii.
2004, April, Tiger shark on surfer, North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii.
2003, August, Great White on wetsuit swimmer, Avila beach, California.
Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheikh, 2010:
Two sharks attacked 5 swimmers over 6 days, killing one and maiming the others. At least two of the attacks were by the same Oceanic Whitetip (picture above), a very unusual occurrence. Another shark involved was probably a Shortfin Mako.
Reasons for the remarkable series of attacks in shallow waters by pelagic (deep water) sharks
One possibility being investigated is that the combination of unusually warm Red Sea waters for the time of year and a ship carrying sheep from Australia throwing dead animals and waste into the waters attracted the sharks from their usual habitat.
When the sheep carcasses disappeared and their staple diet of tuna had already been depleted by over fishing, the sharks went for the nearest meat.
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Half a million people dive with sharks every year, some in cages,
some in chain mail, some in nothing at all. The #1 spot for shark
diving is South Africa (especially to see Great Whites), though Australia's
Barrier Reef or the Ningaloo Reef (especially good for massive
Whale Sharks) on Australia's west coast are also excellent.
A British shark cage tourist in Hermanus, South Africa, March
'05, had a narrow escape when a 20ft Great White did a good job
of dismantling his cage and almost got to the main course.
There is some concern among local people and conservationists
generally that sharks are associating the bait used to attract
the big fish with the humans that hang around in the vicinity.
In other words sharks are being trained to recognise this equation:
easy food = humans.
More information on how, when and where from Florida Museum of Natural History, USA.
Stories from shark attack survivors, how they did it.
Incredible photos of Great Whites hunting seals off the coast of South Africa.
Attacks | Crocodile
and Alligator Attacks | Scorpion
Stings | Snake
and Wasp Stings | Blue-Ringed Octopus and Stonefish | Bear
Attacks | Jellyfish
Do you have any shark advice or anecdotes?