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A record number of people in the U.S. were attacked by sharks last year

A warning sign at an Australian beach last year. (David Gray/Reuters)
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The number of shark attacks increased to a record high last year, and I’m not saying this means you should never swim and should always stay on the land and hide in your shark bunker for the next five years, but I am saying you should at least be open to the idea.

There were 98 unprovoked shark attacks last year around the world, eclipsing the previous record of 88 attacks in 2000, according to the International Shark Attack File, which tracks such incidents.

More than half of the attacks last year occurred in the United States, and most of the attacks in the United States took place around Florida. Last year, three out of 10 shark attacks worldwide took place in Florida, which, as we have previously noted, is a magnet for sharks. Florida saw 30 bites last year, which was higher than the year before (23) but still shy of the record set in the state (37 attacks in 2000).

BREAKING: California has more shark attacks than Colorado

Just remember this before you go to Florida, a really wonderful place with no personal income tax and lots of Publixes  as far as the eye can see: There have been more than 730 shark attacks in the state since the late 19th century, according to the shark attack file. More than a third of those have been in just one county — Volusia, home of Daytona Beach — which reported seven attacks last year, trailing Brevard County for most in the state.

The 59 attacks in the United States last year also set a record for attacks in this country’s waters, and the tally included seven attacks in Hawaii, which had the nation’s only reported death from a shark attack. Margaret Cruse was snorkeling about 200 yards from the shore in Maui last April when a shark attacked her, authorities said.

There were 16 other attacks in North American waters outside the United States, to go with 18 attacks in Australia, eight in South Africa and others reported from Brazil to Egypt.

Most commonly, people who were attacked in 2015 were surfing or on other boards (49 percent of the attacks) or swimming or wading in the water (42 percent).

How often do sharks bite people? More often than they used to.

“The number of shark-human interactions occurring in a given year is directly correlated with the amount of time humans spend in the sea,” the shark attack file said in its annual report, released this week. Since an ever-growing number of people are spending more and more time on the water, the report’s authors wrote, “we realistically should expect increases in the number of shark attacks and other aquatic recreation-related injuries.”

The shark attack file, which is based at the University of Florida and relies on reports from around the world, considers an attack unprovoked if a shark goes after a human who didn’t do anything to start the encounter. If a person goes diving and grabs the shark and gets bitten, or if someone is trying to free a shark from a fishing net and gets bitten, those are deemed “provoked” attacks.

The report included some positive news: Even though the 98 unprovoked attacks worldwide set a record, fewer people were killed in these incidents than were the last time the record was set. Six people were killed in shark attacks last year, on par with the numbers seen over the last decade and down from 11 deaths in 2000.

“This total is remarkably low given the billions of human-hours spent in the water each year,” the report said.

The report attributed the low number of fatalities after shark attacks in the United States to good safety measures and medical care in the areas where the bites occurred.

Even though the number of attacks is increasing, the number of sharks is actually falling or staying steady around the world, as shark populations have been hit hard by over-fishing and losing their habitats, the file noted.

In addition to these, there were 66 other incidents not deemed unprovoked attacks: 36 provoked attacks, 14 cases where a shark bit a boat and some unclear situations.

Further reading:

Surfer survives ‘radical’ shark attack in California

A great white menaced the Massachusetts shoreline so people made “Jaws” jokes at the beach

A shark attack in Massachusetts left terrifying bite marks in the side of a kayak

This is what an actual shark attack looks like