HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The number of shark attacks reported worldwide in 2018 was nearly 30 percent lower than the average of the five previous years, according to researchers at the University of Florida.
The International Shark Attack File, a scientific database that has compiled information on all known shark attacks since 1958, reported 66 unprovoked shark attacks across the globe last year. Three of those attacks happened in Hawaii, tied for second-most in the United States, researchers say.
Unprovoked attacks are defined by the group as incidents where an ‘attack on a live human occurs in the shark’s natural habitat with no human provocation of the shark.’ An average of 84 attacks per year were reported between 2013 and 2017.
The waters off the coast of Florida — which the group says has spent decades as the world’s most dangerous location when it comes to unprovoked shark attacks — saw 16 such attacks in 2018, by far the most in the United States.
If Florida were considered an independent country, only Australia (20) would have reported more unprovoked shark attacks in 2018. Officials in the other 49 states combined reported the same number of attacks (16) that Florida did.
The only fatal shark attack in the U.S. last year was reported in Massachusetts, in waters off Cape Cod.
Despite the low numbers, researchers warn that the sharp decline in unprovoked shark attacks last year might not be indicative of a trend.
“Statistically, this is an anomaly,” said Gavin Naylor, the program’s director. "My hope is that the lower numbers are a consequence of people becoming more aware and accepting of the fact that they’re sharing the ocean with these animals.”
In all, the International Shark Attack File says it investigated 130 incidents ‘of alleged shark-human interaction’ around the world last year. 34 of these instances were defined as ‘provoked attacks’ — instances where divers were bitten after harassing sharks or fisherman where bitten while unhooking a shark from a fishing line, for example.
Nine cases involved bites to marine vessels, like boats or kayaks, and four involved ‘scavenge’ bites — post-mortem bites on human remains in the water.
To report a shark-human interaction with the International Shark Attack File, click here.