The Inertia Editorial Intern
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More people die annually from champagne corks than shark attacks. Still, champagne corks don’t have teeth like this. Photo: Michael Muller


The Inertia

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.

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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.

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Mick Fanning Shark J-Bay

The shark encounter heard ’round the world. Photo: WSL

4) South Africa – 41 attacks, 13 fatalities

Who could forget Mick Fanning’s 2015 run-in with a great white just two minutes after the start of the J-Bay Open? Cape Town continues to attract tourists and sharks with beautiful beaches and a flourishing population of seals. Due to the astronomical amount of fatalities in KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape, officials have recently turned to controversial measures to mitigate the risk of shark attacks. Drum-line catch-and-kill techniques continue to spark debate across the globe, but recent non-invasive mitigation measures like shark spotting and flagging have begun to turn the tides on danger. Although simple, the color-coded flagging system in place in most South African public beaches have proven to be very effective in warning the public.

5) South Carolina – 39 attacks, 0 fatalities 

The warm, murky waters of South Carolina’s beaches closely resemble another east coast hotspot at the top of our list. Ten attacks occurred in 2017 alone, and that is double the number recorded in 2016. Earlier this year, 10-year old Jei Turrell made national news when he survived a gruesome bite to the arm while wading in the shallows of Hilton Head Island. South Carolina is not traditionally associated with a high frequency of attacks, but recent data indicates that beaches like Hilton Head may pose a threat to tourists seeking a seaside retreat.

6) California – 33 attacks, 3 fatalities 

California is home to some of the most densely populated beaches in the world, so it’s surprising (and fortunate) that this state isn’t higher on the list. The number listed does not include the nine attacks that occurred in 2017, and luckily, none of these were fatal. Notoriously sharky Surf Beach west of Lompoc has not seen a fatality since 2012. Unfortunately, the low frequency listed here does not mean that the state is out of the woods just yet. Recent studies show that juvenile white shark populations have increased around Ventura over the last decade. On a lighter note, more baby sharks mean a healthier coastal climate!

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.

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7) North Carolina – 33 attacks, 0 fatalities

Although the water temp remains slightly cooler than South Carolina or Florida, North Carolina still experiences its fair share of shark attacks. The last fatal shark attack occurred in 2001, but the last non-fatal attack occurred on Sunday, August 5th at Bald Head Island. An unidentified girl was nipped in the calf by what authorities believe to be a juvenile shark. Tagged sharks in the OCEARCH Global Tracking Portal continue to make headlines when spotted off North Carolina beaches. In the spring, two male great whites, named George and Bruin, were pinpointed off the coast of Wilmington. 

8) Réunion Island – 21 attacks, 7 fatalities – Illegal to Surf

The reputation this French island off the coast of East Africa has in terms of shark attacks is the stuff of nightmares. The remote island is only about 970 square miles, and it should be a tropical paradise for those individuals looking to escape into its crystal blue waters. However, out of the 21 shark attacks in recorded history, 17 attacks occurred between 2011 and 2015, with seven of those attacks proving fatal. The most recent fatal attack occurred in February of 2017, where bodyboarder Adrien Dubosc became the island’s ninth fatal shark attack victim in history. Following the surfing community’s outrage at the attack, even Kelly Slater called for a cull. Fortunately, Kelly soon retracted his statement.

9) Brazil – Brazil 10 attacks, 2 fatalities 

To the men reading this section, tighten your stomachs and thank your lucky stars. Pernambuco, Brazil has experienced 57 recorded shark attacks in history. The most recent and gruesome Recife horror story told of Jose Ernestor da Silva, who lost his life to a tiger shark in June of 2018. The tiger shark ripped off da Silva’s leg and penis, causing an irreparable amount of blood loss. The largest concern with the Recife attacks is that so many of them are fatal. From the 56 recorded attacks over the past 20 years, 21 have been fatal. The beaches are still densely populated, but most locals know now to steer clear of the water. 

10) Bahamas – 4 attacks, 1 fatality

West End, Grand Bahama is number ten on the list. Advertising Tiger Beach as a shark haven for scuba divers, the Bahamas now attracts tourists from all over the world, and the shark diving industry has exploded because of it. The confirmed fatality listed above is Austrian lawyer, Markus Groh, who was mauled by a shark during a scuba diving expedition with a controversial dive company led by Jim Abernathy. Abernathy’s dive company is based in Miami, Florida and continues to travel to the Bahamas for shark expeditions.

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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.

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