Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, the University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File releases its annual tally. And Florida’s Volusia County tops the world in shark bites in 2017. Again.
Nine shark bites were reported last year on Volusia County beaches. They include New Smyrna Beach, a city south of Daytona Beach that attracts scores of surfers, Lindsay French told the Daytona Beach News-Ledger. French recently took over supervision of the university’s International Shark Attack File from long-time curator George Burgess, who retired.
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The Volusia count is down six bites from the previous year, but is still more than any other location in the world.
“Volusia County just has the most surfers in Florida and the most people in the water, so they keep topping the chart for shark attacks,” French told the News-Ledger Tuesday.
In Florida, 31 bites were reported, just above the annual average of 29. Of these, one bite happened in July at Miami-Dade’s Haulover Beach when a nude bather was nipped on both legs. There were no reported bites in Broward County in 2017.
According to the report, Florida registered seven shark bites in Brevard County, five in Palm Beach County, three in Duval County and two in Martin County last year. Along with Miami-Dade’s single bite, one bite each was reported in Indian River, Okaloosa, St. Johns and St. Lucie counties.
Elsewhere, according to the researchers, South Carolina had 10 unprovoked shark attacks in 2017, Hawaii had six, California had two. Massachusetts, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia had one bite apiece.
According to the Shark Attack File, there were 88 unproven shark attacks and five fatalities worldwide in 2017, also higher than the five-year annual average of 83. More than half of these attacks — 60 percent — happened in U.S. waters, with 53 bites.
Australia was next behind the U.S. with 14 attacks, and one fatality. Closer to South Florida, there were two attacks in the Bahamas, including one in June in which a woman lost her arm, and one fatal attack of a 22-year-old man at Cuba’s Guardalavaca Beach in November, Cuba’s first since the 1930s, The Sun reported.
So why is New Smyrna Beach the hot spot in overall numbers?
One theory is that the Florida region is the most popular and consistent surf spot on the entire East Coast, French told the News-Ledger.
“On a good day, there could be 300 surfers in the water,” she said. “The moral of the story is the more humans in the water, the more chance of shark attacks.”
Still, just when you thought it was safe to go in the water in Florida — it actually is. None of Florida’s dust-ups between human and shark was fatal.