Survey of world’s unprovoked shark attacks singles out South Carolina

Survey of world’s unprovoked shark attacks singles out South Carolina

CHARLOTTE, NC (Mark Price/The Charlotte Observer) - South Carolina was singled out in a worldwide survey of unprovoked shark attacks because it doubled its numbers in 2017.

The Florida Museum of Natural History released the data, which showed a 2017 world total of 88 confirmed unprovoked shark attacks, 30 provoked attacks, and 18 cases of boats being attacked by sharks. Only five of the unprovoked attacks were fatal worldwide, none of which were in the U.S., says the report.

Attacks in US waters led the world and most of them happened in two states: Florida and South Carolina.

There were 31 attacks in Florida and 10 in South Carolina. That's double the number of unprovoked attacks South Carolina experienced the previous year, according to the survey.

The University of Florida, which compiled the worldwide data, said the increase in South Carolina attacks could be due to any number of factors, including an increase in population in coastal areas as well as better documentation of attacks.

Among the other top states for unprovoked attacks: Hawaii (6), California (2) and one attack each in North Carolina, Massachusetts, Texas and Virginia.

"The number of human-shark interactions is directly correlated with time spent by humans in the sea," said the report. "As the world population and interest in aquatic recreation continues to rise, we expect the incidence of shark attacks to increase, as well."

Florida has topped the survey for decades and represented 58 percent of the unprovoked worldwide shark attacks in 2017.

Surfers and those participating in board sports accounted for most of the incidents (59 percent of the total cases). "This group spends a large amount of time in the surf zone, an area commonly frequented by sharks, and may unintentionally attract sharks by splashing, paddling, and wiping out," said the report. "Swimmers and waders accounted for 22 percent of incidents."

Others bitten by sharks were snorkeling, scuba diving, body surfing and playing in the wave zone, said the report.

Australia was second to the United States in unprovoked attacks with 14. Two of those attacks were fatal, says the report.

The survey noted that worldwide fatality rates have continued to decline, reflecting advances in beach safety, medical treatment and public awareness.

"The somber truth is that the world's shark populations are actually in decline, or exist at greatly reduced levels, as a result of over-fishing and habitat loss," said the survey. "On average there are only six fatalities that are attributable to unprovoked shark attacks worldwide, each year. By contrast about 100 million sharks and rays are killed each year by fisheries. There is a pressing need to conserve these animals and their associated habitats to ensure their sustainability in the long term."