Top Ten Shark Attack Facts.
From 2004 to 2013, there were 689 recorded shark attacks worldwide — an average of sixty-nine attacks per year. Of these, around ten ended up being fatal.
Indeed, sharks are considered one of the most fearsome creatures known to man. But are they really as terrifying as they seem? Why do sharks attack humans? What are the odds of being attacked by a shark and what should you do in the face of a shark attack in order to survive?
Let’s zone in on the ocean’s top predator as we take a look at these top ten shark attack facts.
1. Why Sharks Attack Humans.
“If you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you.” This is one of the rules that applies to wild animals. According to the International Shark Attack File (ISAF), the most common type of shark attack is a provoked attack, where sharks become aggressive when disturbed or approached when, for example, divers go near their hangouts or try to grab them.
However, unprovoked shark attacks also occur. So why do they attack even when humans aren’t doing anything?
Some researchers think that sharks may have acquired a taste for humans after having repeatedly consumed human flesh, meaning they consider humans as prey and deliberately go after us. More scientists, however, believe that unprovoked shark attacks are cases of mistaken identity, where sharks mistake humans for their regular prey, either because of our actions in the water or our appearance. This explains why most shark attacks are catch-and-release or hit-and-run. The shark attacks, grabs a bite and then, realizing its mistake, leaves. Unfortunately, shark teeth are so large and powerful that one bite is often enough to result in death.
2. Less Than 10 Percent of All Shark Species Have Attacked Humans.
Yes, sharks do attack humans, but of over the 480 species of sharks known to humans, only thirty-four of these have been implicated in unprovoked shark attacks since 1580. Of these, only twelve have killed humans and only three species have victims that figure in the double digits. Combined, these three species account for more than 85% of all the recorded fatal unprovoked attacks throughout history. They are: the great white shark, the bull shark and the tiger shark.
The bull shark is dangerous because it likes to live in shallow waters, both saltwater and freshwater, and therefore often comes in contact with humans.
The tiger shark is responsible for a higher number of total unprovoked attacks than bull sharks — 101. However, the bull shark has a higher record of fatalities — twenty-eight compared to the tiger shark’s twenty-six.
The tiger shark is dangerous because of its voracious appetite. In fact, the tiger shark is considered the “garbage collector” of the ocean, because it eats just about anything. Even rats, cats and horses have been found in the stomachs of tiger sharks, along with tires and license plates! Because of this, tiger sharks do not always swim away after one bite from a human, but stay to finish the meal. Not a very comforting thought, is it?
3. Great White Shark — The World’s Deadliest Shark?
The great white shark alone is responsible for a third of all known shark attacks, with a total of 279, seventy-eight of which were fatal.
The great white shark can grow over 20 feet (6.1 meters) long and weigh over 7000 pounds (3175 kilograms). It is a fierce predator, eating other sharks, dolphins, small whales, seals, sea lions, sea turtles, sea otters and seabirds. It hunts using its keen sense of smell, able to detect even just a single drop of blood in ten billion drops of water! It also hunts by detecting electric signals using a special organ, called the ampullae of Lorenzini.
What makes the great white shark so dangerous? It’s because it is such an excellent hunter and because of the size of its teeth. While the bull shark is known to have a more powerful bite force, great white sharks have three hundred razor-sharp teeth arranged in seven rows, each about 3 inches (7.6 centimeters) long.
Still, scientists insist that great white sharks are simply “sample biting”, and are not out to get you. If you can get away after the first bite, then you can survive, even if it is at the cost of an arm or a leg.
Indeed, the great white shark is a terrifying creature and its record speaks for itself. However, some scientists believe that there is an even deadlier shark — the oceanic whitetip shark. It may have only ten recorded attacks to its name, but it is known to go after victims from sunken ships and crashed planes, going into a fearless feeding frenzy until there is no prey left. No survivors. No witnesses. No records.
4. New Smyrna Beach, Florida — The Shark Attack Capital of the World
Of all the countries in the world, the United States has the largest number of shark attacks, and many of these happen in Florida, particularly in the town of New Smyrna Beach in Volusia County. Since 1882, 210 shark attacks have been recorded, though thankfully, none of these have ended up being fatal. There are so many sharks in New Smyrna Beach that it is believed that if you swim here, you’ll be within 10 feet (3 meters) of a shark at one point or another.
In spite of this, many people continue to flock to New Smyrna Beach to swim, surf or go fishing, which is why the shark attacks just keep coming.
Australia has a large share of shark attacks, as well, followed by South Africa, Brazil and New Zealand. In South Africa, the large number of shark attacks are blamed on the shark diving industry, as well as the large population of great white sharks in its waters.
5. The USS Indianapolis Shark Attacks
Some consider the USS Indianapolis shark attacks to be the worst in history. Of its original 1196 passengers on board, only 317 survived, and nearly 150 of those who didn’t are believed to have been eaten by sharks.
On July 29, 1945, while the USS Indianapolis was en route to the Philippines from the Pacific island of Tinian, it was hit by torpedoes and sunk. Nine hundred of the passengers survived the torpedo attack, only to face a worse fate. As they tried to keep themselves afloat and alive in the open water, the sharks came, first eating the dead and then going after the living, nipping at those in the outer edges of the group. It is unsure what kind of sharks they were, but scientists suspect oceanic whitetip sharks to be the culprits.
6. 1916 New Jersey Shark Attacks
Say the words “shark attack” and some people immediately think of the 1975 film Jaws (along with probably hearing its memorable score in their heads). Few people know, however, that this movie was inspired by a real-life event — the 1916 Jersey Shore shark attacks.
Between July 1 and July 12, 1916, five people were attacked around Jersey Shore, four of them killed. At first, people didn’t believe they were caused by a shark. After all, there had never been a shark spotted in their area. As scientists came in, though, the conclusion was that a great white shark had attacked all five, breeding a new kind of terror that spread all over the country.
Thus, Jaws was born.
7. 2010 Sharm el-Sheikh Shark Attacks
Those two shark attacks occurred fairly a long time ago — 1916 and 1945. However, another string of shark attacks took place just recently — in 2010 — in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
On December 1, 2010, four people were seriously injured while in the water, three of them requiring partial amputation of their badly mangled limbs. As a result, the resort was closed. It was reopened on December 4, after the two sharks believed to have been behind the attacks were captured, but the very next day, December 5, another person was attacked and unfortunately, killed.
Several theories have been presented as to why the sharks attacked, including that the sharks were mentally ill, that overfishing that made the sharks hungry and that sheep carcasses had been dumped close to shore. The real reason, however, remains a mystery and the real culprits have never been caught.
8. Who Do Sharks Go After?
Sharks can go after just about anyone, young or old, male or female, who is within their reach. However, studies show that 93% of the shark attacks from 1580 to 2010 were on males, most of them between the ages of twenty-one and thirty. Also, divers are the most common victims, followed by surfers, swimmers and kayakers. This is because divers come the closest to sharks, sometimes knowingly or unknowingly diving near their hangouts and taunting them, while surfboards are often mistaken by sharks for prey. Divers collecting shells and marine organisms are also more commonly attacked than those who are simply exploring or taking pictures.
9. How to Survive a Shark Attack…
In the event that a shark goes after you, the first thing you have to do is not panic — easier said than done when you’re caught between a shark’s teeth, but if you panic, all may be lost. Hit the shark in the nose or poke it in the eyes, and once it lets you go, swim toward the shore as fast as you can while shouting for help. If you’re injured, your life may depend on it.
The better way to survive a shark attack, though, is not to get attacked in the first place. You can save yourself from being a shark’s next snack by: not swimming when it’s dark, not swimming alone, not swimming when you are injured and not swimming in murky waters or under cliffs. You should also refrain from wearing bright colors in the water, which make you an easy target for sharks, and from wearing jewelry, since its sparkle will surely catch the shark’s eye. Do not bring a dog with you or swim like one, since excessive splashing mimics injured prey and will catch the shark’s attention.
10. …Which Is Unlikely to Happen.
Now, now, before you start to become deathly afraid of sharks and swear never to go swimming in the ocean again, know this — the odds of your being attacked by a shark are 11.5 million-to-one against! And the odds of being killed by a shark? 1 in 3.7 million. In fact, you are more likely to die from the flu, from a fall, even from a flowerpot, than from a shark attack. You are more likely to get bitten by a dog, a snake or a deadly virus-carrying mosquito than a shark. You are more likely to get injured by a pail or, this is really true, by a room freshener, than by a shark.
Every year, only around five people die from shark attacks, whereas millions die of starvation.
Get it? You’re very unlikely to be attacked or killed by a shark, unless you’re deliberately feeding yourself to one — or are plain unlucky.