Fewer Shark Attacks Worldwide Last Year

It may be safer to go back into the water. According to a University of Florida researcher, the number of shark attacks around the world dipped last year to their lowest level in five years.

The researcher says there were 59 shark attacks last year, compared to 71 the previous year.

George Burgess says there were four fatal attacks in 2008, which is about average. The previous year, just one person died in a shark attack.

Two of last year's deaths were in Mexico, and one was in Australia. The other was in California.

Here in Eastern Carolina there were at least two shark attacks in 2008, one off the waters of Topsail island and the other off Emerald Isle.

Burgess says the decline in the number of attacks may be partly due to the recession. He says fewer people may be vacationing at the beach.

He also points to a sharp decline in shark populations due to commercial fishing.

When sharks do attack, their favorite target is still a surfer. More than half of the attacks involved surfers.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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