Shark attack stories seem to always become national news during the summer months. The bad news is different species of shark swim beneath the surface of most beaches – meaning an encounter is possible virtually anywhere. The good news is flying champagne corks result in more deaths annually than sharks.
The following list identifies the ten locations around the world where shark attacks happen at the highest frequency and is based on the International Shark Attack File’s current data on “World Locations with Highest Attack Rates” from 2007 to 2016. It is important to note that an attack does not imply a fatality; rather an “attack” is defined as “an unprovoked encounter between a human and a shark.” A fatality, for ISAF purposes, is when a person’s cause of death is the attack. And while this list is ordered based on how often attacks occur at each location, it should be noted that Australia, South Africa, and Reunion Island are currently the deadliest shark attack locations in the world.
1) Florida – 244 attacks, 1 fatality
Florida is the only state in America where just about every native species can kill you at the drop of a hat. Recording 31 attacks in the year 2017, New Smyrna Beach rightfully holds the title of “Shark Attack Capital of the World.” Aside from a rare fatal attack on a kitesurfer at Stuart Beach in 2010, most shark attacks in Florida do not end in death. Attacks in the Sunshine State most often result in minor injuries, and many surfers are ready to charge the next swell once their stitches are healed up.
2) Australia – 139 attacks, 15 fatalities
Although Florida has the largest quantity of attacks in the world, Australian shark attacks, by comparison, are much more severe. Nowhere else comes close. New South Wales has recorded a whopping 93 fatalities since the year 1900, though the rate of attacks there has decreased since the turn of the decade. The real threat now lurks in the waters of West Oz, as juvenile sharks now reach popular surf spots like Margaret River and Esperance. Most recently, tragedy struck when 17-year-old surfer, Laeticia Maree Brouwer was killed by a great white while surfing Wylie Bay in Esperance.
3) Hawaii – 65 attacks, 2 fatalities
It isn’t all palm trees and rainbows in the tropics. Places like Makena Beach on Maui appear to be magnets for tiger sharks. A recent study indicated that a large, shallow ocean shelf attracts tiger sharks to frequently visited beaches all around the island. This shelf houses the reef habitats of tiger shark prey, even drawing in tagged tiger sharks native to other islands. This may be why Maui has experienced nearly double the number of unprovoked bites compared to other islands in the past 20 years.
Editor’s note: This story was edited on August 10, 2018, by The Inertia Editorial Intern Kasey Schmidt from a previous version published on September 22, 2013, authored by Juliann Johnson. The updated version includes the most recent data available from the International Shark Attack File.