COCOA BEACH, Florida – Florida accounted for 58% of all shark attacks in the U.S. and 35% of the world’s total in 2017, according to the University of Florida International Shark Attack File (ISAF) 2017 Worldwide Shark Attack Summary.
Both percentages are higher than the recent (2011-2015) averages of 49.2%, and 29.0% respectively.
The 31 unprovoked shark attacks in Florida are slightly higher than the most recent five-year annual average of 29 incidents, but lower than 2016’s annual total of 35.
Shark Attacks Highest In East Central Florida
Volusia County (Daytona Beach area) had the most shark attacks (9) representing 29% of the Florida total, but lower than the 2016 total of 15 cases. The remaining incidents occurred in Brevard (Cocoa Beach area) (7), Palm Beach (5), Duval (3), and Martin (2) counties, with single incidents occurring in Indian River, Okaloosa, St. Johns, St. Lucie, and Miami-Dade counties.
Researchers say that the higher number of shark bites in Florida waters closest to Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando is attributable to high aquatic recreational use by both Florida residents and tourists, including large numbers of surfers, and to the rich nature of its marine fauna.
Shark Attacks By Water Activity
Following recent trends, surfers and those participating in board sports accounted for most incidents (59% of the total cases). This group spends a large amount of time in the surf zone, an area commonly frequented by sharks, and may unintentionally attract sharks by splashing, paddling, and “wiping out.”
Swimmers and waders accounted for 22% of incidents, snorkelers/free divers 9%, Scuba divers 2%, body-surfers and those playing in the wave zone (3%), and those participating in other shallow water activities (5%).
U.S. Shark Attacks In 2017
The United States experienced the most unprovoked shark attacks in 2017 (53 cases). This represents 60.2% of the worldwide total. This is a slight decline from 2016 which saw 56 unprovoked attacks, but on par with the most recent five-year annual average of 54. Significantly, the United States did not have any shark attacks that resulted in a fatality.
Outside of Florida, U.S. attacks were recorded in South Carolina (10), Hawaii (6), and California (2) with single incidents in Massachusetts, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia. Significantly, South Carolina’s ten incidents were higher than its annual average of five incidents.
Image: Great White Shark. Credit: Greg Skomal / Mass. Division of Marine Fisheries