Shark Watch

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When Sharks Attack
Worldwide there are probably 70-100 shark attacks annually resulting in about 5-15 deaths.

Historically the death rate was much higher than today, but the advent of readily available emergency services and improved medical treatment has greatly reduced the chances of mortality.

Actual numbers of shark attacks certainly are going up each year because of increasing numbers of bathers in the water, but there is no indication that there is any change in the per capita rate of attack.

Most attacks occur in nearshore waters, typically inshore of a sandbar or between sandbars where sharks feed and can become trapped at low tide.

Areas with steep drop-offs are also likely attack sites. Sharks congregate there because their natural food items also congregate in these areas.

There are three major kinds of unprovoked shark attacks:

The most common are "hit and run" attacks. These typically occur in the surf zone with swimmers and surfers the normal targets.

The victim seldom sees its attacker and the shark does not return after inflicting a single bite or slash wound.

In most instances, these probably are cases of mistaken identity that occur under conditions of poor water visibility and a harsh physical environment.

Upon biting, the shark quickly realizes that the human is a foreign object, or that it is too large, and immediately releases the victim and does not return.

"Bump and bite" attacks and "sneak" attacks, while less common, result in greater injuries and most fatalities.

These types of attack usually involve divers or swimmers in somewhat deeper waters, but occur in nearshore shallows in some areas of the world.

"Bump and bite" attacks are characterized by the shark initially circling and often bumping the victim prior to the actual attack.

"Sneak" attacks differ in having the strike occur without warning.

In both cases, unlike the pattern for "hit and run" attacks, repeat attacks are not uncommon and multiple or sustained bites are the norm.

Injuries incurred during this type of attack are usually quite severe, frequently resulting in death.

These types of attack are the result of feeding or antagonistic behaviors rather than being cases of mistaken identity.

Almost any large shark, roughly two meters or longer in total length, is a potential threat to humans.

Three species have been repetitively implicated as the primary attackers of man:

The white shark
Tiger shark
Bull shark

Source: (The Florida Museum of Natural History Ichthyology Web site)