Report Shows Shark Attacks, Fatalities Rose Worldwide in 2023
The number of worldwide shark attacks increased slightly last year over 2022, but fatalities from those attacks doubled. The statistics come from the University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File (ISAF), a database which tracks all shark attacks globally. This report focuses specifically on unprovoked attacks. Attacks are considered to be “provoked” when humans purposefully approach a shark
2023 saw 69 unprovoked shark attacks, up just a bit from the five-year average of 63 attacks per year. However, 10 of last year’s attacks ended in deaths. Only five attacks in 2022 proved fatal. Gavin Naylor, director of the Florida Museum of Natural History’s shark research program, called the number of deaths in 2023 “unsettling.”
A significant number of the fatal attacks (40 percent) occurred in Australia. The continent accounted for 22 percent of all attacks last year. Three separate deaths occurred at Eyre Peninsula, a popular surfing spot in Southern Australia. The uptick in incidents could be explained by the high number of seals and white sharks Australia has on offer.
“If a white shark is going after a seal and the seal knows it, the white shark hasn’t got a chance,” Naylor said. “Seals are really agile, so the only ones that get caught are the ones that are goofing off and flopping around on the surface minding their own business. And that’s kind of what a surfer looks like.”
The United States boasted a much larger percentage of the total attacks, at 52 percent. There were 36 unprovoked attacks last year in the U.S., 16 of which occurred in Florida.
Officials chalk the increase up to more people being in the water, rather than a dramatic environmental shift. They say that despite the higher numbers, the figures are still within the average number of unprovoked attacks globally, which has remained under 100 for the last 10 years.
The report offers some advice for keeping yourself safe from shark attacks. Officials advise only swimming during daylight hours, always stay close to shore, and avoid splashing. It’s also wise to remove jewelry that sharks could mistake for fish scales. Swimming with a partner will likewise reduce your risk of attack, as sharks are more likely to approach lone figures.