It is summer, which means it is beach season, which means we’re going to talk about shark attacks for a little while. Over the weekend, a great white shark attacked a man swimming near a beach in Southern California (the guy is reportedly okay, while the shark remains at large).
Since there’s an increase in shark interest right now, the folks over at USA Today put together this wonderful graphic, which finally answers the age-old question: “Are there more shark attacks in Florida or South Dakota?”
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) July 7, 2014
If you’re wondering how they differentiate between the unprovoked and provoked attacks, the Florida Museum of Natural History’s International Shark Attack File breaks it down this way: Unprovoked attacks are those where a shark attacks a person in the shark’s natural habitat without provocation and provoked attacks include any where a person instigates by grabbing a shark or trying to remove one from a net or something.
(But, and I am just throwing this out there for contemplation because we’re all friends here and this is a safe space for discussion: Are we sure these attacks are all unprovoked? Not to diminish the trauma and agony that must accompany being attacked by a shark, which I am sure is a supremely unpleasant experience, but what if the sharks were just swimming along, minding their own shark business, and the swimmers swam up and wouldn’t stop talking about “Jaws” or something? What if the sharks tried to amicably get away but the people just wouldn’t stop with the “Did you know Michael Caine couldn’t accept his first Oscar in person because he was filming the last ‘Jaws’ movie?” Maybe we’re all just shark stereotyping here.)
In any event, there were 47 shark attacks in the U.S. in 2013, down from 54 the year before, according to the International Shark Attack File, a database compiling all known shark attacks. (And yes, of course Florida routinely has the most unprovoked shark attacks of any state in the country.)
Worldwide, there were 125 cases of what the file called “alleged shark-human interaction” last year, with 72 of these “interactions” falling into the unprovoked category. Those 72 attacks were down from 81 a year earlier, but the file notes that since the beginning of the 20th century, the number of unprovoked shark attacks has increased.
Meanwhile, a study found last month that great white sharks — a species that has been in decline for several decades — are increasingly abundant along the Atlantic coast.