ISAF 2000 Shark Attack Summary
The International Shark Attack File (ISAF) investigated 90 alleged incidents of shark-human interaction occurring worldwide in 2000. Upon review, 79 of these incidents represented confirmed cases of unprovoked shark attack on humans. Unprovoked attacks are defined as incidents where an attack on a live human by a shark occurs in its natural habitat without human provocation of the shark. Shark-inflicted scavenge damage to already dead humans (most often drowning victims), provoked incidents occurring in or out of the water (usually involving divers or fishers handling sharks), and interactions between sharks and divers in public aquaria or research holding-pens are not considered attacks. The eleven 2000 incidents not accorded "unprovoked" status included four cases of attacks on marine vessels, four "provoked" attacks, two attacks listed as "doubtful," and one in which insufficient information was available to assign it to category.
The yearly total of 79 unprovoked attacks was the largest tally since the ISAF began recording such statistics in 1958. By comparison, 58 unprovoked attacks were recorded in 1999 and the yearly average during the decade of the 1990's was 54. Since the late 1980's, the number of unprovoked shark attacks has grown at a steady rate, rising from 38 in 1988 to all-time highs of 62 in 1994 and 74 in 1995. Overall, the 1990's had the highest number of attacks (536) of any previous decade, continuing an upward trend exhibited throughout the twentieth century.
The number of shark-human interactions transpiring in a given year is directly correlated to the amount of human time spent in the sea. As the world population continues to upsurge and the time spent in aquatic recreation greatly rises, we might expect an annual increase in the number of attacks. By contrast, nearshore shark populations are declining at a serious rate in many areas of the world as a result of overfishing, theoretically reducing the opportunity for these shark-human interactions. However, year-to-year variability in local economic, meteorological and oceanographic conditions also significantly influences the odds of sharks and humans encountering one another. As a result, short-term trends in the number of shark attacks must be viewed with caution.
In addition to the above, the ISAF's efficiency in discovering and investigating attacks has increased greatly in recent years. Fundamental advances in electronic communication (the Internet and email), an expanded global network of ISAF scientific observers, and a rise in interest in sharks throughout the world spawned in part by increased media attention given to sharks, have promoted more complete investigations of attacks. ISAF's web page [http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/Sharks/ISAF/ISAF.htm], which includes electronic copies of the Attack Questionnaire in four languages as well as a plethora of statistics and educational material about sharks, is the most highly accessed shark site on the web.
Ten fatalities were reported in 2000. The 12.7% fatality rate mirrored the 1990's decade average of 12.7%. Three fatalities were reported from Australia, two deaths occurred in Tanzania, and single fatalities were recorded from Fiji, Japan, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea and the United States.
As in 1999, more than two-thirds (69.6%, 55 attacks) of the attacks occurred in North American waters with 51 from the United States and four from the Bahamas. Elsewhere, attacks occurred in Australia (7), South Africa (5), Reunion (2), Papua New Guinea (2), Tanzania (2), Fiji (1), Galapagos Islands (1), Japan (1), Kiribati (1), New Caledonia (1) and Tonga (1).
Following recent patterns, most unprovoked attacks within the United States occurred in Florida (34). Additional U.S. attacks were recorded in North Carolina (5), California (3), Alabama (2), Hawaii (2), Texas (2), Louisiana (1), Puerto Rico (1) and South Carolina (1). Within Florida, Volusia County had the most (12) shark incidents, which is largely attributable to high aquatic recreational utilization of its attractive waters by large numbers of Florida residents and tourists, especially surfers. Other counties having attacks in 2000 were Palm Beach (6), Brevard (4), Monroe (3), Indian River (2), St. Johns (2), Lee (1), Manatee (1), Pinellas (1), Santa Rosa (1), and St. Lucie (1). The single U.S. fatality occurred in Pinellas County, Florida. The number of attacks occurring in North Carolina and Alabama were the highest yearly totals in their respective state histories.
Swimmers-waders (46.1% of cases with victim activity information) and surfers-windsurfers (31.6%) were the recreational user groups most often subjected to shark attack in 2000. Other attacks involved upon divers/snorkelers (18.4%) and body surfers (2.6%). A single attack (1.3%) occurred during a water entry event.
The International Shark Attack File (ISAF) is a compilation of all known shark attacks that is administered by the American Elasmobranch Society, a professional organization comprised of international workers studying sharks, skates and rays, and the Florida Museum of Natural History. More than 3,300 individual investigations are currently housed in the ISAF, covering the period from mid-1500's to present. Many of the data in the ISAF originate from the voluntary submissions of numerous cooperating scientists who serve worldwide as regional observers. Data submitted to the ISAF is screened, coded and computerized. Hard copy documentation, including original notes, press clippings, photographs, audio/video tapes, and medical/autopsy reports, is permanently archived. Data housed in the ISAF are studied by biological researchers and research physicians. Access to ISAF data is granted only after careful screening on a case-by-case basis. Direct access by the press and general public is prohibited since much data, including medical records, is sensitive in nature and is given in confidence. Requests for summary information and non-privileged data are made to the ISAF director, George H. Burgess.
For additional information on sharks and shark attack, visit the Florida Museum of Natural History's shark research web site at: http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/Sharks/sharks.htm