The U.S. led the world again in the number of shark attacks last year, according to a University of Florida report released this week.
Worldwide, 79 attacks occurred in 2010 -- the highest number since 2000 (80) -- with 36 reported in the United States. Australia was second with 14, then South Africa with eight and Vietnam and Egypt with six each.
While Florida led the nation with 13 reported attacks, this total was significantly lower than the state's yearly average of 23 over the past decade.
"Florida had its lowest total since 2004, which was 12," said George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File at the university. Florida typically has the highest number of attacks worldwide, but 2010 marked the state’s fourth straight year of decline, Burgess said. "Maybe it’s a reflection of the downturn in the economy and the number of tourists coming to Florida, or the amount of money native Floridians can spend taking holidays and going to the beach."
Of those attacks in the U.S. outside of Florida, five were in North Carolina, with four each in California, Hawaii and South Carolina. There were single attacks in Georgia, Maine, Oregon, Texas, Virginia and Washington.
Surfers were the victims of slightly more than half of the incidents reported worldwide in 2010, nearly 51% of the cases. An economic downturn will usually influence tourists but not necessarily surfers, whose sport is relatively low-cost, Burgess said.
Swimmers and waders were the second-largest group affected, accounting for nearly 38% of the shark attacks internationally.