Shark attacks at 17 year high










2011 was a calm year for shark attack fatalities for the United States, in fact, there were zero deaths.  But attacks worldwide increased a bit, resulting in 12 deaths-which according to the University of Florida’s Shark Attack Summary, is the highest amount of deaths from sharks since 1993.  29 non-fatal attacks occurred in U.S. during 2011, compared to an average of 39.1 for the decade.  According to shark attack expert George Burgess, the decline in shark attacks in the U.S. is as a result of the economic down turn.  The bottom line is that less people are vacationing and going in the water which is resulting in less shark attacks.

Many of the shark attacks that took place occurred in places where shark and human encounters have been historically rare.  Costa Rica, Kenya, and New Caledonia all had one fatality, while the islands of Reunion and Seychelles had two each.  These places are relatively new tourist spots that have had much more people entering the water compared to past years.  If tourism and sharks attacks are related, then coastal communities should put some of their tourist revenue into well-trained lifeguards, emergency-care personnel, and medical facilities, said Burgess.  He also found from previous experience that tourist operators will lure in sharks by feeding them.  This is also seen at many places in the Caribbean as well.

It has to be expected that as humans invade sharks territories that attacks will occur.  In the 1990’s, the coastal waters of Recife, Brazil started to experience much more frequent shark attacks.  As it turned out, the waters were a birthing ground for bull sharks.  The ecosystem was disrupted as mangroves were destroyed, and a fish processing plant was emptying fish debris and blood into the water.

Although increased tourism may result in increased shark attacks, most expert are more concerned with the decreasing amount of sharks.  Sharks are one of the most important species on this planet, and yet, tens of millions of sharks are still being slaughtered every year.  It is clear that humans are not on a shark’s menu-out of the millions of people that entered the water last year, only 75 attacks occurred.  In a way it is kind of a shame because I think that sharks could be a great form of natural selection for humans.

-Marc Silverstein


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