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Human deaths from shark attacks hit 20-year low last year
Date:2/12/2008

GAINESVILLE, Fla. Fatal shark attacks worldwide dipped to their lowest levels in two decades in 2007 with the sole casualty involving a swimmer vacationing in the South Pacific, according to the latest statistics from the University of Florida.

Except for 1987, when there were no fatalities, the last year a single human death occurred from a shark attack was in 1985, said George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File housed at UFs Florida Museum of Natural History. By comparison, there were four deaths each in 2005 and 2006, and seven in 2004.

Its quite spectacular that for the hundreds of millions of people worldwide spending hundreds of millions of hours in the water in activities that are often very provocative to sharks, such as surfing, there is only one incident resulting in a fatality, he said. The danger of a shark attack stays in the forefront of our psyches because of it being drilled into our brain for the last 30 years by the popular media, movies, books and television, but in reality the chances of dying from one are infinitesimal.

Advances in medical treatment, greater attention to beach safety practices and increased public awareness about the danger of shark attacks are all likely reasons the fatality rate so far for the 21st century, at 7.6 percent, has been lower than the 12.3 percent recorded for the 1990s, Burgess said.

The number of shark attacks overall increased from 63 in 2006 to 71 in 2007, continuing a gradual upswing during the past four years, he said.

One would expect there to be more shark attacks each year than the previous year simply because there are more people entering the water, he said. For baby boomers and earlier generations, going to the beach was basically an exercise in working on your suntan where a swim often meant a quick dunking. Today people are engaged in surfing, diving, boogie boarding and other aquatic activities that put them much closer to shark
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Contact: George Burgess
gburgess@flmnh.ufl.edu
352-272-2360
University of Florida
Source:Eurekalert

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