People have always been intrigued by sharks, as they are equally fascinating and terrifying. The media has a feeding frenzy every time a shark is spotted, one of Hollywood’s most iconic movies—Jaws—was based on the ominous species, and the Discovery Channel devotes an entire week each summer to the mysterious undersea creatures.
With the premiere of Shark Week on July 22, SafeWise wanted to dive in and look at the facts and statistics surrounding the history of shark attacks—and calculate the likelihood of encountering a shark while on your beach vacation. While all shark attacks are traumatizing, they do not occur as frequently as you’d think. In fact, humans kill more sharks each year than the reverse. So, sharks shouldn’t worry us as much as they do.
Here’s a look at some of our findings:
Six shark attacks were confirmed fatal in the last ten years.
Since 2007, 443 non-fatal shark attacks have occurred.
Most victims were surfing or swimming when attacked by a shark.
Florida and Hawaii recorded the most shark attacks out of any other coastal states.
The US averages about forty-five shark attacks a year out of 323 million people living in the states.
Great white, tiger and bull sharks are responsible for the most human attacks, but there are over 375 different shark species in the ocean.1
States with the Highest Shark Attack Numbers
What Are the Chances of Being Attacked by a Shark?
Shark attack reports often make national news or become viral videos when they occur. However, people are rarely involved in an unprovoked shark attack while on their beach vacations. In fact, your risk of being attacked by a shark is 11.5 million to one,2 and you are more likely to encounter one of these situations.3
Dying from the flu
Being in a car accident
Being struck by lightning
Shark Safety Tips
Chances are slim you’ll see a shark while in the ocean; however, it’s important to know what to do in case you ever meet Jaws.
Swim in a Group: Most sharks attack individuals, as they mistake humans for other ocean creatures.
Stay Close to the Shore: If you swim out too far, you’ll isolate yourself, be away from help, and be closer to the shark’s territory.
Avoid Swimming in the Ocean at Night: Sharks are most active at night, and you won’t be able to see them approaching in the dark.
Don’t Go in the Water if Shark Warnings Are Posted: It may seem like common sense, but if a shark has recently been sighted, don’t enter the water until further notice.
Be Careful Near Sandbars and Ocean Drop Offs: Sharks tend to swim in these deeper areas.
Don’t Enter the Water with an Open Wound: If you are bleeding from a wound, don’t go in the water as sharks are attracted to blood.
Watch for Sea Life: Sharks eat fish, so if they see a school of fish, they’re likely to go for it. Stay away from water plants and animals, as they attract sharks and could endanger you.
Use Common Sense: Be alert when swimming in the ocean. You are entering the shark’s territory, so respect the shark and its natural habitat.
SafeWise analyzed the Florida Museum’s data on shark attacks over the last decade for the information in this article. We also researched all shark attacks, both fatal and non-fatal, that have been reported to Global Shark Attack File over the last ten years (2007–2016) to map all our findings and show where each attack took place based on the longitude and latitude of the city where it was reported. We only included unprovoked shark attacks on our map—meaning the victim did not actively engage with the shark when they were attacked.
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