But even as shark encounters cause a stir this summer, the risk of being attacked by these often misunderstood creatures remains low, and many other phenomena are far more dangerous.
“Your chances of being bitten are the same as your chances of winning a Powerball,” said Christopher Lowe, professor of marine biology, director of the Shark Lab at California State University, Long Beach.
In other words: It’s not likely to happen.
The shark will most likely kill or injure you
“You’re at a much greater risk when driving to the beach, or even getting caught up in fast-moving water when bitten by a shark,” Lowe said.
So, before you swear to get in the water on your next beach trip, here’s what to know:
- In Florida, where the majority of shark attacks in the United States occur, people are nearly 21 times more likely to die from a tornado (125 deaths) than from a shark bite (6 deaths) between 1985 and 2010.
- Residents of Florida and five other states with alligators are also more likely to die from a reptile bite (18 deaths) than from a shark bite (9).
- There were 15,011 bicycle deaths in the US compared with 14 shark deaths between 1990 and 2009, meaning Americans are a thousand times more likely to die in a bicycle crash. compared to a shark attack.
- Lightning strikes that killed nearly 76 times more people (1,970 deaths) than sharks (26) occurred between 1959 and 2010 on the US Coast.
- Since 2004, currents have been responsible for 45 times more deaths than sharks.
- More than five times more dogs killed people (349) than sharks (65) in the US between 2009 and 2018.
- Inanimate objects kill even more people than sharks. In 1996, the toilet injured 43,687 people, the ladder injured 138,894 people and 198,849 people were injured by nails, screws, nails and bolts. Meanwhile, there were only 13 cases of shark injuries and deaths in the same year.
- Between 2000 and 2007, there were 441 hunting deaths, compared with seven deaths from shark bites in the US and Canada.
These numbers are not intended to incite fear at the sight of dogs, toilets or ladders, but rather to demonstrate how uncommon shark attacks are.
Is there an increase in shark attacks?
Although the risk of being bitten by a shark remains very low, the number of attacks will increase in 2021, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History.
These numbers are on par with the five-year international average of 72 attacks annually, but represent an increase from the 52 reported attacks in 2020, as Americans try to stay home during context of COVID-19 restrictions.
It is common to see year-to-year fluctuations in shark-human interactions, and although the number of deaths spikes in 2021, long-term trends suggest that the annual number of shark-bite deaths is increasing. decrease, according to Shark Attack File.
The US leads the world in the number of shark bites recorded annually, with a total of 47 reported by 2021. Most of those attacks are in Florida, according to data compiled by the museum. Surfers and boarders account for more than half of all reported shark bite victims.
Lowe said the increase could be due to climate change and rising temperatures driving more people to the beach as well as shark populations recovering and possibly swimming closer to shore to feed.
“The water is warmer than ever. And that will put more people in the water than ever before, which simply increases the chance of someone accidentally biting it,” the professor explained.
However, when taking into account how many people get into the water, the chances of being attacked by a shark are very low.
We’re not on their menu
Researchers don’t really know for sure why sharks sometimes bite people. Maybe they did it because they felt threatened and were just trying to defend themselves, Lowe said.
“The number one thing people have to remember is that it’s a shark’s home, and we’re guests in their house, and quite often, we’re not good guests,” added the professor.
Sometimes sharks can also mistake swimmers and surfers for food. Sharks can see hands or feet in the water and mistake it for a small fish. Tiger sharks or great whites may even mistake humans for seals or sea turtles.
Some of the attacks were “cases of misidentification,” occurring in low visibility conditions underwater, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History.
“People get bitten but rarely consume it, and that tells us we’re not on the shark’s menu,” Lowe said.
Sharks don’t care about us
Lowe and his team at Shark Lab used drones to study how sharks behave with humans along the California coast.
“After two years of reviewing hundreds of hours of footage, our conclusion was basically that sharks ignore humans,” Lowe said.
Drone video from Shark Lab shows sharks swimming peacefully near unsuspecting paddlers, sometimes close enough for humans to bend over and touch them.
“People have been taught to be afraid of sharks, thinking that if a shark is nearby they will bite, and we know that’s not true,” Lowe said.
However, shark attacks can happen on rare occasions, so you should remember if you ever come across a fish, turn towards it, let it know you can see it, and slowly back away. again.
“The ocean is a wild place. It’s not Disneyland, your safety is not guaranteed,” Lowe said.