Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Shark Attacks Decline Worldwide In Midst Of Economic Recession

Date:
February 20, 2009
Source:
University of Florida
Summary:
The recession may be responsible for a slump of a different sort: an unexpected dive in shark attacks, says a University of Florida researcher.

George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File at the University of Florida, looks through a shark's jaws on Feb. 17, 2009. Shark attacks worldwide in 2008 dipped to their lowest level in five years, according to statistics released Feb. 19, 2009. Burgess said he believes the recession may be putting a damper on people's vacation trips to the beach and contributing to the decline. The number of attacks also dropped in the United States from the previous year, although the number remained at the same level in Florida.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Florida

The recession may be responsible for a slump of a different sort: an unexpected dive in shark attacks, says a University of Florida researcher.

Related Articles


Shark attacks worldwide in 2008 dipped to their lowest level in five years, a sign that Americans may be forgoing vacation trips to the beach, said George Burgess, ichthyologist and director of the International Shark Attack File, which is housed at UF.

According to the latest statistics released February 18, the total number of shark attacks declined from 71 in 2007 to 59 in 2008, the fewest since 2003, when there were 57, said Burgess, who works at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus.

“I can’t help but think that contributing to that reduction may have been the reticence of some people to take holidays and go to the beach for economic reasons,” Burgess said. “We noticed similar declines during the recession that followed the events of 2001, despite the fact that human populations continued to rise.”

Shark attacks dropped in the United States and abroad in 2008, Burgess said. In recent years, vacationing tourists have been attacked off beaches in remote parts of the globe, such as Cocos Island in the Indian Ocean, where none was reported in the past, he said.

There were four fatal attacks last year — an average number — compared with only one in 2007, which marked a two-decade low. Two of the deaths were in Mexico, one was in Australia and one was in the United States.

La Niña, a meteorological condition that brings water masses and deep ocean creatures closer to shore, probably was a factor in the deaths of two male surfers and injury of a third that occurred in less than a month along a resort-studded stretch of Mexico’s southern Pacific coast, Burgess said. The U.S. fatality was a 66-year-old man swimming at Solana Beach, Calif., while the Australian death occurred along the country’s eastern coast and involved a 16-year-old boy.

The number of shark attacks in the United States, which typically makes up about two-thirds of the total worldwide, dropped from 50 in 2007 to 41 in 2008, Burgess said. Thirty-two of those attacks were in Florida — the same number as the previous year — followed by North Carolina and South Carolina, with three each; Hawaii, two; and California, one.

Florida, with its warm waters, has more sharks, including black tip sharks and spinner sharks, species not found in lower temperatures, Burgess said. “A lot less attacks occur off Long Island, New York, than Florida simply because there are fewer sharks up there,” he said.

Within Florida, Volusia County continued its dubious distinction as the world’s shark bite capital with 22 incidents, its highest yearly total since 2001, Burgess said. Attractive waves off New Smyrna Beach on the central Atlantic coast are popular with surfers, he said.

As in past years, surfers accounted for most of the world’s attacks — 57 percent — followed by swimmers and waders, 36 percent; and divers, 8 percent, he said. These numbers are rounded up, which is why they total more than 100 percent.

“Surfers are the heavy favorites largely because the splashing of arms and particularly the kicking of feet at the water’s surface where visibility is poor is provocative to sharks,” Burgess said. “They result in what we think are cases of mistaken identity, where the shark interprets the irregular splashing to be activities of its normal prey.”

As a group, surfers seem to accept the risks of pursuing a sport in the ocean, he said.

“I’ve yet to find a surfer who says he or she won’t go back into the water after a bite or a nip,” he said. ‘Some of them may be looking over their shoulders a little bit more than they did before, but the reality is they understand where humans fall in the grand order of things.”

Burgess said he doubts the economic recession is likely to deter surfers because their interest in the recreational activity is so high. “It’s oftentimes not a group that is economically blessed, but all they have to do is drive to the beach with the board and get into the water, and the rest is free,” he said.

To a certain extent, divers, like surfers, pursue their sport as something of an avocation, leaving swimmers and waders as the group most likely to be affected by economic hardship, Burgess said. “These are sort of the average folks that go to the water for recreation, lie on the beach, work on their suntan and take their kids in the surf for a swim,” he said. “I would expect their numbers to decline in 2009.”

Over the long term, though, Burgess expects shark attacks to rise because of a gradual upswing from one decade to the next. “We’ve already surpassed the numbers of attacks in the previous 10-year period,” he said, “so we know this decade will be higher than the last.”


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Florida. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Florida. "Shark Attacks Decline Worldwide In Midst Of Economic Recession." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 February 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090219111000.htm>.
University of Florida. (2009, February 20). Shark Attacks Decline Worldwide In Midst Of Economic Recession. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090219111000.htm
University of Florida. "Shark Attacks Decline Worldwide In Midst Of Economic Recession." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090219111000.htm (accessed November 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Pygmy Marmoset Getting a Toothbrush Massage Is the Cutest

Pygmy Marmoset Getting a Toothbrush Massage Is the Cutest

Buzz60 (Nov. 19, 2014) — This rescued pygmy marmoset named Ninita is obsessed with her toothbrush. It's cuteness overload, and Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the amazing video. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Why Are Chocolate Makers So Worried?

Why Are Chocolate Makers So Worried?

Reuters - Business Video Online (Nov. 19, 2014) — Two big chocolate producers are warning the popular treat could run out by 2020 because people are eating it faster than farmers can grow cocoa. Ciara Lee reports Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tiny Hamster Eating Thanksgiving Meal Breaks the Internet

Tiny Hamster Eating Thanksgiving Meal Breaks the Internet

Buzz60 (Nov. 19, 2014) — A tiny hamster and a bunny and rat enjoy a tiny Thanksgiving meal where they stuff themselves to the brim. Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the cute video. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Giant Panda at Toronto Zoo Loves Somersaulting in the Snow

Giant Panda at Toronto Zoo Loves Somersaulting in the Snow

Buzz60 (Nov. 19, 2014) — A giant panda at the Toronto Zoo named Da Mao is celebrating the northeast snowfall by playing and tumbling in the snow in his outdoor enclosure. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins