Last year, 26 shark attacks were reported in Florida.
There were 53 total shark attacks reported in the United States, which is the highest number since 2000, according to the University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File report released on Monday.
Out of the 53 attacks in the U.S., 10 were in Hawaii, five each in California and South Carolina, two in North Carolina, and one each in Georgia, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon and Puerto Rico, said George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File.
Burgess added that of the 80 attacks worldwide, one person died in California and six others died elsewhere. Surfers accounted for 48 of those attacks, while swimmers accounted for about 18.
Burgess said the increase doesn’t mean sharks are becoming more aggressive or that people should be afraid to go in the ocean.
Considering the hundreds of millions of people who swim in the oceans, he said, seven deaths is not an overwhelming amount.
“The chances of you meeting a shark and dying are extremely small,” he added.
Burgess said Florida typically accounts for more than half of the attacks because of its increasing population and huge coastline.
For Joseph Grant, a surfer and FreeRide Surf and Skate Shop employee in Gainesville, surfing with sharks is part of the excitement.
Grant said that during a few surf sessions last year in New Smyrna Beach, he saw spinner sharks jump out of the water, spin and dive back into the depths.
“I’ve had a few that have jumped within five or 10 feet of me, which is exciting to say the least,” he said.
Grant, 23, said good surf could outweigh a potential hospital visit.
“If it just bit me and left some puncture marks, and I had superglue in my truck and the waves were good, I would just glue it up myself, maybe try to wrap it, and go back out and surf some more,” he said.
Burgess said if someone is worried about getting bit by a shark to avoid going in water where birds are diving, where people are fishing, and where there are steep drop-offs. He added that people should stay in groups, too.
“There’s a reason why fish are found in schools,” he said.
Burgess said the most effective place to hit a shark is its nose because it’s a sensitive area.
“Generally speaking, if you can pop it on the nose, the shark will veer away and have a newfound respect for you,” he said.
While a shark attack is a natural phenomenon, Burgess said the real story is what humans can do to reduce attacks on sharks.
He said fisheries killed about 40 million to 70 million sharks last year.
“The seven deaths we had last year, which were a little higher than usual, compared to the number of sharks we kill is amazing,” he said. “You have a 10 million to 1 ratio of who’s killing who, and we know who the aggressor is in that relationship.”