What State has the Most Shark Attacks?

Written by Colby Maxwell
Updated: November 12, 2022
Image Credit Konstantin Novikov/Shutterstock.com
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The United States is home to some of the most habitat varieties in the entire world. From the arctic tundra in northern Alaska to the rainforest-covered cliffs of Hawaii, you can find nearly any ecosystem in the 50 states. With 30 states having a coastline, it’s no wonder that the US is home to sharks. In fact, the United States has had more shark attacks each year than any other country in the world. Leading those statistics is one state in particular. Let’s discover what state has the most shark attacks!

What state has the most shark attacks?

What State has the Most Shark Attacks?
Florida has the most shark attacks of any US State.

iStock.com/Divepic

Of the 30 states with an official coastline, Florida is the state that has the most shark attacks.

As unsurprising as it is that Florida has the highest number of shark attacks in the United States, the actual amount is rather shocking. The United States reported a total of 47 shark attacks in 2021, of which Florida was responsible for 28 of them. Overall, Florida accounted for 60% of the US total. Florida Museum, a tracking website for shark attacks globally, said this:

For decades, Florida has topped global charts in the number of shark bites, and this trend continued in 2021. Florida’s 28 cases represent 60% of the U.S. total and 38% of unprovoked bites worldwide. This is consistent with Florida’s most recent five-year annual average of 25 incidents.

Florida Museum

Since the Florida Museum started to keep track of attacks, Florida has been the number one. As mentioned above, 2021 resulted in 28 shark attacks in Florida, but the total number since tracking started is much higher. Since tracking began in 1882, there have been 896 shark attacks in Florida alone.

When broken down by county, a trend leaps off the screen. Of the 26 counties touching the ocean, one has nearly three times as many as the rest. Volusia County has a documented 337 shark attacks, with the closest contender, Brevard County, only logging 155. With numbers like that, it’s no wonder that Volusia County (especially New Smyrna Beach) is known as the “shark bite capital of the world.”

What shark attacks the most in Florida?

What State has the Most Shark Attacks?
Bull sharks are the official leader of shark bites in Florida, although the blacktip is a close second.

Stefan Pircher/Shutterstock.com

The Florida Museum has kept close tabs on the type of shark that is implicated in each attack. The largest category of shark is known as “Requiem spp.” and sits at 36% of all attacks. Requiem sharks aren’t a specific species of shark, but a group of them. When the Museum can’t perfectly identify the type of shark that attacked but know it could be a blacktip, spinner, sandbar, or bull shark, they place it into this large category. Generally, the Florida Museum suspects that most of the bites in this large category belong to the blacktip shark, but they can’t be sure.

The most common shark attack in Florida is the bull shark (16%), closely followed by the blacktip shark (15%). If you include the Requiem sharks from the “other” category, blacktip sharks would probably take the lead.

Shark speciesPercentage of attacks
Requiem Shark (inconclusive)36%
Bull Shark16%
Blacktip Shark15%
Spinner Shark9%
Hammerhead Shark8%
Sandbar Shark7%

Why does Florida have so many shark attacks?

New Smyrna Beach has the most shark attacks of any beach in the world.

iStock.com/Javier_Art_Photography

Florida has more shark bites than most countries, but how is that possible? Well, the answer is probably a combination of things.

First, it’s important to understand statistics here. The more people you have in the water, the more likely there are to be attacks. Florida has one of the highest populations of any state in the country, with a majority of people living somewhere near the coastline. Additionally, Florida has a massive tourism industry and is a highly popular vacation spot. All of these factors ultimately mean more people.

What makes the state different from, say, California, is the number of people in the water. California also has a high population, but the cold water in the Pacific is a deterrent for many people thinking about taking a dip. Even at the height of summer, the average water temperature is around 68 degrees. Florida, on the other hand, can reach temperature of 87 degrees during July and August. Warmer water means more people in the water.

How many shark attacks in Florida are fatal?

What State has the Most Shark Attacks?
The last fatal shark attack in Florida was in 2010.

iStock.com/cbpix

Shark attacks are rare, but fatal shark attacks are even rarer. For comparison, 17 people drowned in 2000 in Florida, while only 1 shark attack was fatal. In fact, fatal shark attacks in Florida only happen every few decades. The most recent fatal shark attack in Florida was in February 2010, when a man kitesurfing was bitten on his leg.

What other states have a lot of shark attacks?

Florida is the clear winner (or loser) when it comes to shark attacks, but other states also have a history of attacks. The table below shows the highest number of shark attacks in states in the U.S.

State2021 TotalFatal
Florida280
Hawaii60
California31
South Carolina40
North Carolina30
Georgia20
Maryland10

Reef shark headbutts diver
Reef sharks can grow quite large (7 feet), but they are not especially aggressive and dangerous to humans.
Konstantin Novikov/Shutterstock.com
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About the Author

Colby is a freelance writer from Charlotte, North Carolina. When he isn't distracted by his backyard birdfeeder, you can find him camping, exploring, and telling everyone around him about what he's recently learned. There's a whole world to learn about and Colby is content to spend his life learning as much as he can about it!

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