It may seem as though shark attacks have been increasing in recent years, but what does the data say? Is 2023 the worst year on record for shark bites?
As of September 15, 2023, according to trackingsharks.com, there have been 60 shark attacks this year, with eight of those fatal. Out of the 60 attacks, eight were provoked, meaning the victim had been annoying the shark.
What Do the Numbers Mean? Is This the Worst Year on Record for Shark Bites?
Looking at previous years, we can see the current number for 2023 isn’t any higher than in recent years. Although we won’t know for certain until the end of the year. However, according to the data, in 2022, there were 91 shark attack bites. Nine of them were fatal, and 16 of them were provoked. Since we’re already three-quarters into the year, with winter coming in the northern hemisphere, 2023 seems on track to have a similar number of total attacks. Looking back on 2021 and 2020, there were 81 and 78 shark bite attacks respectively.
According to the University of Florida, there has been an average of 74 unprovoked shark bites each year in the past decade. The record for the most unprovoked shark bites in the 21st century was set in 2015. That year had 98 recorded unprovoked attacks.
Although summer will begin in the southern hemisphere before the year is up, and several months remain in which shark attacks may occur, it seems unlikely that 2023 will wrap up as the worst year on record.
Where do Shark Attacks Happen the Most Frequently?
Shark Attacks Have Increased Since the 1950s
Although 2023 isn’t on record for the highest number of shark attacks, overall the trend for shark bites has been edging upwards. In 1950, there were 30 reported shark attacks. However, this doesn’t mean the risk of a bite has increased. There are more people in the oceans encountering sharks today than in 1950.
The population has risen from 2.5 billion in 1950 to nearly 8 billion today. More people are heading to the beach and going into the water, which means more people are encountering sharks than in 1950. However, although there may be more shark bites occurring overall, the odds of encountering an aggressive shark are still exceptionally low.
What Is the Risk of Being Attacked by a Shark?
Fortunately, the risk of a shark attack, especially a fatal one is low. In general, sharks tend to avoid humans. Although we may see headlines in the media regarding shark attacks, many people take to the world’s oceans each day, with relatively few shark encounters.
According to the University of Florida, 18 things are more likely to kill than shark attacks, including lightning, fireworks, and bike accidents. The risk of death by a shark attack is around one in four million.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Alessandro De Maddalena/ via Getty Images
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