Global “unprovoked” shark attacks down, with Florida still ranking 1st in the world, report reveals

The number of unprovoked shark attacks worldwide decreased last year, as Florida continues to rank first in the world, a new report revealed. 

2022 saw a total of 57 unprovoked shark bites, most of which occurred in the U.S. or Australia, according to the University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File. Of those attacks, only five were fatal — down from nine deaths in 2021 and 10 in 2020. 

The U.S. led in the number of unprovoked shark bites, with Florida once again reporting the most in the world, the report said. While none of Florida’s 16 unprovoked attacks were fatal, but two resulted in amputations

The U.S.’s single fatal unprovoked attack in 2022 took place when a snorkeler went missing in Keawakapu Beach in Maui, Hawaii, the report said. 

According to the report, since 2013, there has been an average of 74 unprovoked bites per year. 

The report distinguishes between “unprovoked” shark bites, as opposed to “provoked” attacks, which occur when humans initiate contact with a shark in any way.

“Unprovoked bites give us significantly more insight into the biology and behavior of sharks,” Gavin Naylor, director of the Florida Museum of Natural History’s Florida Program for Shark Research, said in a statement. “Changing the environment such that sharks are drawn to the area in search of their natural food source might prompt them to bite humans when they otherwise wouldn’t.”

In 2022 there were an additional 32 bites that fell under the criteria of “intentionally or unintentionally provoked.”

Last year’s unprovoked shark attacks tied with 2020 for the fewest numbers of reported incidents in the last decade, the study said. 2020’s low numbers could be attributed to COVID-19-related travel restrictions and beach closures, the Florida Program for Shark Research said. 

The decrease in shark attacks may also reflect the decline in the shark population.

“Generally speaking, the number of sharks in the world’s oceans has decreased, which may have contributed to recent lulls,” said Naylor. “It’s likely that fatalities are down because some areas have recently implemented rigorous beach safety protocols, especially in Australia.”

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