A New Report Says There Was an Increase in Shark Attacks in 2023, Here’s What You Need to Know

The International Shark Attack File (ISAF) annually researches and documents incidents involving sharks. The organization is part of Florida’s Museum of Natural History and is the go-to group for all things related to shark attacks. The ISAF says in 2023, they saw an increase in shark bites and fatal attacks.

On average, there are 63 “unprovoked” shark attacks around the world annually. Unprovoked means the victims didn’t do anything to draw the shark to them, like harassing the animal or attempting to feed it. In 2023, the organization says there were 69 of these cases. On top of that, sharks killed 14 people around the world, with Australia having the most fatalities at four. The U.S. was second with two deadly incidents, one in California and the other in Hawaii.

“Annual fluctuations in shark-human interactions are expected. While the number of fatalities in 2023 was considerably higher than in 2022, there have been years in the past (2011) in which fatalities were also higher,” wrote the ISAF in their report. “The 2023 uptick in fatalities due to white sharks may reflect stochastic year-to-year variation, but it might also be the consequence of the increasing number of white sharks seen at aggregation sites near beaches that are popular with surfers (particularly in Australia).”

U.S. Shark Attacks

Despite more deadly attacks in Australia, the U.S. leads the world in the number of unprovoked shark attacks. Thirty-six people were bitten by a shark, with the majority of these incidents in Florida. 

U.S. State Total Fatal
Florida 16 0
Hawaii 8 1
New York 4 0
California 2 1
North Carolina 3 0
South Carolina 2 0
New Jersey 1 0
Total Cases 36 2
(Source: International Shark Attack File)

The majority of the attacks involved surfers or other board sports. People wading in the water were the second highest group of victims.

Understanding Shark Attacks

While the public may have a general fear of sharks, the number is relatively low if you look at how many people enter the water per year. Your chances of being bit by a shark are way lower than being struck by lightning, at only a one in 3.75 million chance.

So, what do you do if you’re diving or snorkeling and come across a shark? 

The goal is to stay calm. Trying to flee from a shark may kick in its predator instincts. You should face the animal. If it gets close enough, push down on its nose and then safely exit the water. Find more details here.

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