The University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File (ISAF) released its Yearly World Shark Attack Summary on Tuesday, showing that the US reported 33 unprovoked shark attacks in 2020.
This figure accounted for around 58 per cent of the total number of unprovoked shark attacks that occurred worldwide, which was a decrease from 2019 when the US saw 64 per cent of unprovoked attacks.
Shark attacks are categorised by ISAF as either unprovoked or provoked, and the organisation releases the data for both.
ISAF classifies unprovoked attacks as “incidents in which an attack on a live human occurs in the shark's natural habitat with no human provocation of the shark”, while it defines provoked attacks as “when a human initiates interaction with a shark in some way”.
Of the 129 human-shark interactions that ISAF investigated in 2020, 57 were unprovoked bites, while 39 were provoked. The remaining incidents were not classed as bites.
Florida accounted for 16 of the 33 unprovoked attacks that occurred in the US, which represented 28 per cent of the classification worldwide.
In a summary of the unprovoked attacks, ISAF said: “For decades, Florida has topped global charts in the number of shark bites, and this trend continued in 2020.
“However, the state saw a significant drop from its most recent five-year annual average of 30 incidents.”
ISAF revealed that the amount of shark attacks on humans fell in 2020, and claimed that the drop “may have been caused by the widespread quarantines, closed beaches and minimised vacation travel in response to the Covid-19 pandemic”.
However, the organisation’s research found a spike in shark-related fatalities in 2020, as 13 people died worldwide in attacks.
Australia saw the most fatal attacks in 2020, as six people died in unprovoked incidents, while the US only saw three people die, which was an increase from the zero recorded in 2019.
The three fatal shark attacks in the US in 2020 occurred in Hawaii, Maine and California. Despite a high number of attacks, there were no shark-related deaths in Florida in 2020.
In order to avoid being attacked by a shark, ISAF recommends that people “avoid being in the water during darkness or twilight hours when sharks are most active and have a competitive sensory advantage”.
The organisation also encourages swimmers to avoid wearing bright swimwear, as “any high contrast color apparel or gear used by a human in the water is especially visible to sharks”.