When there is a sudden upswing in shark attacks, human-causative factors are involved.  Photo: Shutterstock

When there is a sudden upswing in shark attacks, human-causative factors are involved. Photo: Shutterstock


The Inertia

Shark attacks in the United States rose this year with Florida leading the way by a long shot. The 2013 Shark Attack File stated that there were 53 authenticated, unprovoked shark attacks reported, which includes two fatalities in Hawaii. Twenty four of those attacks took place in Florida, sixteen in Hawaii, four in California, four in South Carolina, one in North Carolina, one in Oregon, one in Texas, one in New Jersey, and one in Alabama.

Meanwhile, worldwide shark attack statistics remained at a normal level. In 2011, there was a low of only 29 unprovoked shark attacks in the United States–a huge difference from the 2012 and 2013 reports. All encounters between sharks and humans are generally influenced by population dynamics. Robert Collier, Founder and President of the Shark Research Committee explained, “The more people that are in the water, the more shark encounters there are going to be. Sharks are not sedentary. They move to different areas to hunt and sometimes those areas are hot spots for surfers or beachgoers.”

Sharks tend to move closer to shore at dusk and dawn to hunt. Therefore, it seems that surfers are the most likely targets to be out during those time frames. Collier stated, “The spike in shark attacks recently is nothing new. Look far enough back and you will see the same spikes.”

Today, it is not uncommon to walk down the beach in Malibu and see a seal on the sand. During the ’60s and ’70s, this was not the case. Seals were hunted for their fur, which in turn caused their population to go down drastically. Sharks left the coasts and went to the islands to find food and the number of encounters dropped. Sharks follow patterns, just like humans do.

Collier said, “More encounters are going to occur if shark migratory patterns collide with people patterns.” Surfers have a higher chance of getting attacked by a shark, for the simple fact that they are usually in the ocean a lot longer than anyone else. Sharks also need to eat more in warm water. Their metabolic rate is based on the environment. The warmer the water the quicker their food burns out, which is one of the reasons Florida has become a hot spot. Collier explained, “If you consider the amount of people that go in the ocean every year…the number of shark attacks won’t seem as high.”

Despite any personal apprehension, sharks are apex predators that help balance ecosystems in the ocean. Sharks, like most animals, are beneficial to each other and the earth. Their disappearance would have negative and cascading consequences to the ecosystem. To avoid shark encounters, surfers should be informed on shark sightings. Visit www.sharks.org to stay up to date on shark-related developments.

  • http://www.surfymum.com/ Karen Surfy Mum

    It’s very interesting and maybe convenient that the Great Whites going on the Protected list in 1998 wasn’t mentioned and neither was that certain areas that were previously shark fishing zones (effectively a cull) for fishermen have been made into marine parks in the mid 90′s. In Western Australia there have been 20 fatalities in the past 100 years – 7 of them in the past 3 years. The protection has lead to an massive increase in the shark population and it seems to be becoming quite obvious now that you can’t protect the shark and beach goers as well. I for one, and I know many others, are very happy that Western Australia is hunting them along with popular beaches with drum lines – just like QLD and NSW have done for the past 60 years to make their beaches safe. We seem to be very happy to fish everything else in the food chain, lets add some shark to that menu – maybe then some more Fish n Chip shops!

    • freesurf79

      I am lost for words…
      to think that someone who declares themself as “surfy” would lower themselves to have such an ego fuelled opinion of the ocean and its inhabitants.
      You PLAY in the ocean, you are not using it to fish or get somewhere – or you out spear fishing or swimming to work each day… meaning you should accept the risk of being in there.
      There are many cultures in this world who respect the ocean and its inhabitants and simply do no not enter it, only in the safety of a boat – e.g many african and asian countries – they dont play with it.
      Our culture is of course different, we have different personal desires and drives, and pleasure through entertainment and highs is one of them – the ocean provides us with some great feelings. This however does not give us the right to remove some of its inhabitants simply because it makes us feel safer – no right at all.

      Skiers and snowboarders face more risk being hit on the slopes by other skiers than you do of being bitten by a shark – does this mean we should set traps for some skiers??? no.

      Every day you walk out of your house the risk of you being hit by a car is much higher than being attacked by a shark in the ocean – are we stopping all cars?? no.

      You cant “make” beaches safe, they are what they are – accept it! If you cant do this, then dont go in the ocean or move somewhere there are no sharks…simple. Stop polluting the world with your egomaniac ideals and selfish desires, it doenst help anyone, it just creates more problems.

      Would be a shame if you choked on your next portion of fish and chips… because with such ways of thinking as a mother you are bringing more ignorant humans into the world.
      shocked…

      • http://www.surfymum.com/ Karen Surfy Mum

        as mum who has seen a friend lose her son in a shark attack a couple of years ago, I FULLY stand by my opinion. Since the Whites have been left to breed out of control we are seeing a large increase in fatalities in WA and Colin Barnett took on the tough decision to do something about it and put human life above the shark – Good on him!

        There seems to be blind romanticism with the shark – but not with say the crocodile (one took a boy in the NT last week and 5 crocs were killed as a result by rangers – no one said anything about that!) or the humble little fish that becomes cat food. Why should the White or other shark get special treatment and be more important than other animals?

        • freesurf79

          I lost a member of my family as a pedestrian in a car accident but i dont ask for cars to be abolished. It was an accident, tragic and it hurt but i understand things happen. How to prevent more happening…education and respect for others.

          I never said any aninal should be more important than another. I am vegan so dont agree with the killing of animals for any reason. The ocean is their territory, if you dont like it then get out. Same if someone messed around in your front yard all the time…you woukd respond how you see fit right?

          Get over it and show some respect for nature will you.

          And leave the croxs alone too!

          • http://www.surfymum.com/ Karen Surfy Mum

            I respect your option, mine is different xx

          • freesurf79

            Its ok, we have to try to understand peopke stuck in the dark ages too. Here is some homework for you… lets go cull some pet dogs too!
            http://m.quickmeme.com/p/3vse0u

          • Laura

            One of our biggest anti cull supporters in Western Australia lost her son to a shark, he was never found. Thank god we have open minded people not driven by fear & revenge for an animal in its own habitat. Jaws was fiction