UF study shows all-time high number of shark attacks last year

Gainesville, FL --- The number of shark attacks in the world hit an all-time high in 2000, led by an upswing of incidents in the United States and Florida, a new University of Florida study shows. Last year's total of 79 unprovoked attacks on humans was the largest since the International Shark Attack File, or ISAF, a compilation of all known incidents, began recording statistics in 1958, said George Burgess, director of the file, which is housed at UF.

By comparison, 58 such attacks were recorded in 1999 and the yearly average during the 90s was 54, he said.

Contributing to last year's world record was an upswing in U.S. shark attacks from 37 in 1999 to 51 in 2000, as well as those in Florida from 25 to 34 in the same period.

The increase is a result of more people spending time in the water, often in remote parts of the world, and a greater number of human-shark skirmishes coming to the attention of the scientific community, thanks to news on the Internet and victims taking the initiative to report their own attacks via e-mail, Burgess said.

"Attacks are basically an odds game based on how many hours you are in the water," he said. "Some of these attacks are beginning to pop up in far-flung corners of the Earth as tourists can afford to vacation in areas they wouldn't normally have gone to in the past.

"Unfortunately, lots of these tourists gleefully enter waters that natives -- who learn over the years where to swim and not swim -- might choose not to go into," said Burgess, an ichthyologist at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus.

Among the exotic island locales where tourists unwittingly encountered sharks were Kiribati, the Galapagos, Fiji and the Indian Ocean's remote Reunion Island.

Such victims now help in scientific investigations by surfing the Internet for information on shark attacks, finding the ISAF's Web site and e-mailing their personal stories, Burgess said. Th

Contact: George Burgess
University of Florida

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