GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The number of reported shark attacks last year increased worldwide but declined in Florida, according to the University of Florida's International Shark Attack File annual report released today.
Ichthyologist George Burgess, director of the file housed at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus, said Florida typically has the highest number of attacks worldwide, but 2010 marked the state's fourth straight year of decline. Florida led the U.S. with 13 reported attacks, but the total was significantly lower than the yearly average of 23 over the past decade.
"Florida had its lowest total since 2004, which was 12," Burgess said. "Maybe it's a reflection of the downturn in the economy and the number of tourists coming to Florida, or the amount of money native Floridians can spend taking holidays and going to the beach."
Worldwide, 79 attacks occurred in 2010, the highest number since 2000 (80), but the global total of six fatalities was only slightly above average, Burgess said. Attacks worldwide numbered 63 in 2009, close to the yearly average over the past decade of 63.5.
The United States had 36 incidents, including five in North Carolina and four each in California, Hawaii and South Carolina. There were single attacks in Georgia, Maine, Oregon, Texas, Virginia and Washington. Florida's four-year decline began in 2007 with 31 attacks, followed by 28 in 2008, 18 in 2009 and 13 last year.
The U.S. led the world in shark attacks — an average year by U.S. standards — followed by Australia (14), South Africa (8), Vietnam (6) and Egypt (6). The most unusual event occurred off the coast of Egypt in early December with five attacks, including one fatality. The attacks occurred within five days and four of the five were attributed to two individual sharks.
"This was a situation that was hugely unusual by shark attack standards," said Burgess, who has researched sharks at the museum for more than 35 years. "It was probably the most unusual shark incident of my career."
To read the full report head to news.ufl.edu/2011/02/07/shark-2011.