11-Year-Old Florida Boy Bitten in Shark Attack Capital of the World

An 11-year-old boy was bitten by a shark at a Florida beach on Thursday, according to local officials.

The boy from Lake Wales, Florida, who has not been named, was standing in waist-deep water at New Smyrna Beach in Volusia County when the shark bit his foot, beach safety official Capt. Tamra Malphurs said in a statement.

Officials said the shark responsible for the bite was not seen and has not been identified.

The injuries the boy sustained were not life-threatening and he was not taken to hospital.

Beach safety officials said the shark bite was the third recorded this year in Volusia County, which is often referred to as the "shark bite capital of the world.

New Smyrna Beach and Volusia County see a high number of shark bites every year, particularly during the tourist season.

According to the International Shark Attack File (ISAF) operated by the Florida Museum of Natural History, there were nine recorded shark bites in Volusia County in 2019—the highest of any county in Florida, the world's shark attack epicenter.

Since 1882, there have been 312 confirmed unprovoked shark attacks in the county, according to ISAF.

But despite the fearsome reputation of sharks, bites on humans are very rare—and fatal incidents are even rarer. Your odds of being killed by a shark are about one in 3.7 million, according to ISAF. In fact, you are more likely to die as a result of being struck by lightning.

Last year, there were a total of just 64 confirmed unprovoked shark attacks around the world—a third of which were in Florida—and just five fatal incidents, according to ISAF. The number of fatal attacks in 2019 is close to the global average of four deaths every year.

Furthermore, the number of confirmed unproved attacks in 2019 is significantly lower than the five-year average between 2014 and 2018 of 82 incidents annually.

This trend was also seen in Florida where the 21 unprovoked attacks recorded last year was lower than the previous five-year average of 32.

While the number of shark attacks varies every year, the recent decline in the state could, in part, be attributable to changes in the migration patterns of blacktip sharks, which are most often responsible for these encounters in the region. That's according to Gavin Naylor, Director of The Florida Program of Shark Research, Curator and Professor at Florida Museum of Natural History.

shark's fin
Stock image: A shark's fin emerging above water. iStock

"We've had back-to-back years with unusual decreases in shark attacks, and we know that people aren't spending less time in the water," Naylor told CNN. "This suggests sharks aren't frequenting the same places they have in the past. But it's too early to say this is the new normal."

It is also important to remember that humans are far more of a threat to sharks than the other way round. For example, a 2013 study published in the journal Marine Policy estimated that humans kill roughly 100 million sharks around the world every year, with many of the deaths resulting from fishing.

Furthermore, the authors warned that the rate of shark killings is exceeding the ability of many species to recover, which could explain the declines seen in many populations.