The number of unprovoked shark attacks increased in 2023 compared to the previous year. Nevertheless, it is within the average of the last ten years, said the Florida Museum of Natural History. A University of Florida scientific database of shark attacks worldwide (ISAF) confirmed 69 unprovoked shark attacks in which people were injured or killed last year. In 2022 there were comparatively few at 57.
The 2023 figure is within normal bite numbers, although the deaths are "somewhat concerning," said Gavin Naylor, director of the Florida Museum of Natural History's shark research program. Ten of the unprovoked attacks last year were fatal. The year before there were five. The likelihood of being bitten by a shark remains extremely low.
The ISAF database's annual report focuses primarily on unprovoked shark bites. This refers to any case in which a shark attacks in its natural habitat without any provocation from humans and was not attracted, for example, by bait.
Surfers were bitten in four out of ten cases
A majority of attacks last year occurred in the United States (52 percent) and Australia (22 percent). Surfers have been bitten in 42 percent of cases worldwide. Most shark deaths in 2023 were due to great white shark bites. "If a great white shark is after a seal and the seal knows that, the great white shark doesn't stand a chance," Naylor said. "Seals are very agile, so the only ones who get caught are the ones frolicking on the surface, minding their own business. And that's exactly what a surfer looks like."
When there are more attacks, that often means more people are spending time in the water - not that sharks have become more dangerous, said the Florida Museum of Natural History. Increasing human activity in sharks' natural habitats is leading to an increase in encounters with the animals. Over the past few decades, the number of registered attacks has risen sharply. However, it has fluctuated greatly over the past ten years: in 2016 there were a particularly high number of 98, and in the pandemic years 2020 and 2022 there were only 57 - the lowest number in that period.
With simple precautionary measures, the already low probability of being bitten by a shark can be further minimized. People should stay close to shore, avoid swimming at dawn or dusk and avoid excessive splashing, the Florida Museum of Natural History said.