72 unprovoked shark attacks worldwide in 2013

Feb. 24, 2014 at 8:02 PM
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GAINESVILLE, Fla., Feb. 24 (UPI) -- In 2013, there 72 unprovoked shark attacks worldwide -- the lowest global total since 2009 when there were 67 attacks, U.S. researchers say.

George Burgess, curator of the University of Florida's International Shark Attack File, said the United States had a decrease in shark attacks with 47, lower than the 2012 total of 54, which was the highest yearly total of the current century.

There were 10 shark fatalities worldwide -- higher than the 10-year average from 2003 to 2012. Western Australia experienced six deaths in the past four years and Reunion Island, which experienced five deaths in three years in the southwest Indian Ocean, remained the shark-attack hot spots.

However, places where shark activity is typically rare or non-existent also experienced attacks, Burgess said.

"When sudden increases in shark attacks occur, usually human factors are involved that promote interactions between sharks and people," Burgess said in a statement. "Shark populations are not in a growth phase by any means, so a rise in the number of sharks is not to blame. However, we can predict with some reliability that shark attacks will concurrently rise with the growth of human populations, a trend we saw throughout the past century."

Burgess said in recent years globalization, tourism and population growth worldwide led to shark attacks in historically low-contact areas like Reunion Island, Papua New Guinea, Madagascar, Solomon Island and the small island Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, which experienced its first recorded shark attack last year.

As more people enter the water in these areas, they become equal opportunity locations for shark-human interaction, he said.

"Globalization and the ease of modern travel means that we have access to places that have never been frequented by tourists before," Burgess said.

"Remote destinations are not typically medically equipped to handle a serious shark attack. This situation is a key factor in the higher death rate this year. When a shark attack happens in a remote place, the results are going to be more dire than if it happened on a Florida beach, for instance."

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