GAINESVILLE, Fla., Feb. 11 (UPI) -- Shark attacks in the United States in 2012 were the highest since 2000, while worldwide fatalities stayed near average levels, researchers in Florida said.
There were 53 U.S. shark attacks last year, the University of Florida's International Shark Attack File report released Monday said.
Eighty unprovoked attacks occurred worldwide, slightly more than 2011, the report said.
The most shark bites, 42, occurred in North American waters. (The 53 U.S. incidents include Hawaii and Puerto Rico, not considered as occurring in North American waters as defined by the International Shark Attack File database.)
Florida led the country with 26, followed by Hawaii (10), California (5), South Carolina (5), North Carolina (2), and one each in Georgia, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon and Puerto Rico, the report said.
Four attacks were recorded in South Africa, three of which resulted in death, while Australia had an average year with 14 attacks and two fatalities, the researchers said.
"The numbers from an international standpoint were on target for the last couple of years because, in theory, each year we should have more attacks than the previous year owing to the rise of human population from year to year," said George Burgess, director of the shark file housed at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the University of Florida campus.
"Thus the shark attack rate is not increasing even though the number of shark attacks is rising. Shark attack as a phenomenon is extremely uncommon, considering the millions of hours humans spend in the water each year."