Florida Shark Bite Numbers in Line With Trends Despite Spate of Attacks

The number of shark bites occurring in Florida this year are in line with long term trends, despite a recent spate of attacks in the state.

Three shark bites have occurred in Florida in recent weeks. Addison Bethea, a 17-year-old high school student from Perry, Florida, was scalloping on Keaton Beach when she was attacked by a 9-foot-long shark on June 30. She had to have her leg amputated following the attack.

Another recent victim was Texas-based Lindsay Bruns, 35, who had been out swimming with her family in Sawyer Key on June 29 when a shark bit her.

Most recently, a surfer was attacked by a six foot shark at New Smyrna Beach on July 10, the Daytona Beach News Journal reported. This marked the fourth attack to occur in Volusia County this year.

Shark
A stock photo shows a shark and a swimmer. Bites are likely to increase during this time of year as more people are in the water. solarseven

The exact species of shark responsible for each of these attacks is not clear. Florida is home to a variety of sharks, including bull sharks, lemon sharks, giant hammerhead and tiger sharks. Great white sharks are known to occasionally visit the area. However, at this time of year, they are usually further north, meaning they are likely not the culprits.

Bull sharks and tiger sharks have a reputation for being aggressive, although attacks are rarely unprovoked.

Gavin Naylor, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research at Florida Museum, told Newsweek that despite this apparent flurry of attacks, the shark bite numbers for this year "are actually in line with trends over the past few years."

"It can sometimes seem as if there is an up tick, especially when there are three or four bites in rapid succession. When this happens the news stories get amplified, generating the false perception that 'things are different this year.' The phenomenon happens a lot, but the patterns are consistent with long term trends," Naylor said.

Naylor also noted that in the months before June there are fewer people in the water, so there "are very few bites."

"When June comes around and tourist season starts in earnest, there are many more people in the water and it can seem as if there is a sudden spike in bites," Naylor said.

Florida has recorded more shark bites than any other state, and since 1837 there have been 896 shark confirmed attacks there.

In 2021, there were 73 shark attacks worldwide, nine of which were fatal. Twenty-eight, or 38 percent, of these occurred in Florida. However, despite this, shark bites are rarely fatal, and remain relatively rare.

Despite having an infamous reputation, sharks do not actively seek out humans.

Sharks may attack when they mistake a human in the water for something else. They have also been known to attack humans when they become confused or curious.

Some shark species often dwell in very shallow waters close to the shore, where tourists swim. This can increase the possibility of humans coming into conflict with a shark.

Florida shark bites declined in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as there were not as many tourists and people swimming in the water.