Shark attacks down, but deaths hit highest level since '93
Of the 75 shark attacks around the globe in 2011, a dozen were fatal, up from six the year before, according to the annual report by the International Shark Attack File, which is compiled by the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida.
The United States, with 29 shark attacks but no deaths, continued a decade-long decline in attacks, all the more notable because shark numbers have been slowly rebounding since the 1990s.
Florida led the United States last year with 11 shark attacks. California had three attacks, down from four in 2010, the statistics show.
Several of 2011's fatal shark attacks took place in far-off islands in the Indian Ocean, with two deaths in Reunion and two in the Seychelles.Three people were killed by sharks in Australia and two in South Africa.
Surfers were the most common victims, accounting for about 60% of unprovoked attacks.
Though the jump in shark-related deaths came as a surprise to ichthyologists, “the odds of you as an individual being attacked or dying are pretty close to infinitesimal," said George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File.
Burgess also noted that humans, by harvesting the creatures for food, continue to pose a greater threat to sharks than they do to us.
"We're killing 30 to 70 million sharks a year in fisheries around the world," Burgess said. "It's pretty obvious who's the real winner and who's the loser in these interactions."
Photo: A great white shark swims in the waters off southern Australia following recent attack. Credit: Bloomberg News.