Beware of these chewing grounds.
Want to know if you are in danger from the current plague of shark attacks? Fear not: The Florida Museum in Gainesville has rolled out a handy interactive shark map that shows the number of unprovoked attacks around the world. It’s like a maritime marauder’s map to the world’s shark attack meccas.
The predator-tracking tool, the “International Shark File,” was rolled out in January, but is currently making waves as U.S. shark activity hits a-jaw-clyptic levels.
Using this fine-toothed digital comb, shark spotters can see all attacks between 1900 and 2021, switch between fatal and non-fatal incidents, and adjust the display to show only attacks committed by a particular species, such as the Mako or nurse shark. They can even click the arrow boxes next to the names to learn more about the so-called man-eater.
The findings were based on data collected by the International Shark Attack File (ISAF), according to the site the world’s only scientifically documented, comprehensive database of all known shark attacks.
“Started in 1958, there are now more than 6,800 individual studies spanning the period from the early 1500s to the present,” they write.
Indeed, the US has the most, with 1,563 unprovoked attacks — those in which a bite on a living human occurred in the shark’s natural habitat — since 1580, with 896 only in Florida since 1837. Australia is trailing behind with 682. , South Africa with 258 attacks and then Brazil with 110 attacks.
Last year was a particularly tough year. The predators were responsible for 73 unprovoked bites worldwide in 2021, more than half (47) of which were in the US. “This is 42% higher than the 33 incidents that occurred in the US in 2020,” the site wrote. “The 47 cases represent 64% of the global total.”
Of these attacks, 28 took place in Florida, representing 60% of the total in the US and 38% of unprovoked bites worldwide.
Interestingly, the vast majority of attacks have been committed by three species since the system was introduced: the great white (354), the tiger shark (138), and the bull shark (121).
Meanwhile, certain activities increase the likelihood of being attacked, with surfing at the top of the list, accounting for a whopping 51% of incidents.
“This group spends a lot of time in the surf zone, an area frequently visited by sharks, and can inadvertently attract sharks by splashing, paddling and ‘exterminating’,” writes the Florida Museum.
Meanwhile, “swimmers and waders were responsible for 39% of the incidents, with the remaining incidents being split between snorkelers/free divers (4%) and body surfers (6%),” according to the site.
Despite the alarming numbers, the Florida Museum claims the chances of being attacked by a shark are rare.
“Although the incidence of fatal bites was higher than normal in 2021, we do not consider this cause for alarm,” they write. “At this point, there is no evidence that the recent spike in fatalities is related to natural phenomena.”
They added, “it is more likely due to chance, a conclusion underlined by the fact that the number of unprovoked bites is in line with recent trends over five years.”
It’s unclear how 2022 will rank on the global shark attack map, but this year the US has seen a spate of attacks, including 6 in Long Island in July alone.
In the latest incident two weeks ago, Max Haynes, 16, was bitten in the foot while surfing near Kismet Beach on Fire Island.
Fortunately, in most cases, the sharks were unlikely to look at the victims for lunch.
“One thing to keep in mind is that sharks aren’t there trying to eat surfers and swimmers,” said Chris Paparo of the shark research team at the South Fork Natural History Museum. “They much prefer to eat fish, but in many cases they mistake us for their real prey. If they bite, they usually move on.”