Shark attacks, bites dropped worldwide in 2022. Here’s why.
Although New York recorded a record eight shark bites along its beaches last year, shark bites have dropped again worldwide.
Fifty-seven unprovoked bites were reported in 2022, most in the United States and Australia, the Florida Museum of Natural History’s Shark Research Program announced in its annual report Monday. That ties 2020 to the lowest since 2008. The 10-year average is 74.
Two things may explain the fewer bites and fewer fatal bites, said Gavin Naylor, director of the research program.
“Generally speaking, shark numbers in the world’s oceans have declined, which may have contributed to recent lulls,” Naylor said. The death toll is also likely to be down “because some areas have recently implemented stringent beach safety protocols, particularly in Australia.”
Florida, with its 825 miles of sandy beaches, once again topped the world with 16 unprovoked stings, according to the International Shark Attack File program.
The program studies reported shark bites, focusing on unprovoked bites rather than bites that occur when sharks are intentionally or unprovoked, such as being hooked by a hook.
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Where did the deadly shark attacks happen?
Only five fatal shark attacks were reported in 2022, compared to nine in 2021 and 10 in 2020.
The United States had one unprovoked death. Kristine Allen, 60, of Bellingham, Washington, disappeared in December while snorkeling with her husband, Blake, off Keawakapu Beach in Maui, Hawaii, the Associated Press reported. Witnesses reported seeing a 10- to 12-foot shark, believed to be a tiger shark, in the area, according to the Hawaii Department of Lands and Natural Resources.
Elsewhere, two fatal attacks took place on the same day in the Egyptian Red Sea and two fatal attacks took place in South Africa.
Australia has had nine shark bites. Single bites have been reported in New Zealand, Thailand and Brazil.
Where have shark bites been reported?
A total of 41 bites have been reported in the United States:
- New York: 8 reported, 6 confirmed
- Florida: 16
- Hawaii: 5
- South Carolina: 4
- California: 4
- North Carolina: 2
- Texas: 1
- Alabama: 1
Two of Florida’s bites resulted in injuries that required amputations, the report said, both likely from bull sharks. A woman snorkeling in the Dry Tortugas was bitten by a lemon shark, only the 11th known unprovoked attack by this species.
Volusia County, Florida, often dubbed the unofficial shark bite capital of the world, has reported seven bites, most of them in Florida.
How to reduce your risk of shark attack
The risk of being bitten by a shark “remains incredibly low,” the program reported. Certain measures can ensure the safety of swimmers and reduce the risk of being bitten:
- Remove reflective jewelry
- Avoid areas where people are fishing
- Leave the water if you see abundant baitfish
- Swim in a group
- Don’t stray too far from the shore
- Swim in front of a lifeguard
- Do not swim in dim or dark light
What’s Behind New York’s Shark Bite Records?
The majority of bites on Long Island were likely from sand tiger sharks attracted by an influx of baitfish, Naylor said.
“Gulf Stream eddies come and go every year. Sometimes they can come very close to shore, bringing nutrients and fish with them,” he said. “Juvenile sand tigers will follow fish, which in some cases leads to increased encounters with people.
A 2016 study showed that juvenile sand tiger sharks have taken up residence in Great South Bay, New York – between Fire Island and Long Island – and the sharks continue to use the sheltered bay as a nursery.
“Juveniles tend to be more experimental and will try things that an adult shark wouldn’t,” Naylor said. “If the fish are particularly dense where people are swimming and the visibility is poor, it is more likely that young sharks, who don’t have the experience of older animals, mistake a swimmer’s foot for their prey”.
Learn more about sharks
Shark numbers:An “alarming” global decline as many species are threatened with extinction
If a shark approaches:A calm safety diver explains how to act
View from a drone:Drones reveal shark parties, though US bites remain rare
CHART:What’s under the coastal waters? Beware of sharks near the shore
Dinah Voyles Pulver covers climate and environmental issues for USA TODAY. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @dinahvp on Twitter.