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Shark attacks decline worldwide in midst of economic recession
Date:2/19/2009

GAINESVILLE, Fla. The recession may be responsible for a slump of a different sort: an unexpected dive in shark attacks, says a University of Florida researcher.

Shark attacks worldwide in 2008 dipped to their lowest level in five years, a sign that Americans may be forgoing vacation trips to the beach, said George Burgess, ichthyologist and director of the International Shark Attack File, which is housed at UF.

According to the latest statistics released today, the total number of shark attacks declined from 71 in 2007 to 59 in 2008, the fewest since 2003, when there were 57, said Burgess, who works at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus.

"I can't help but think that contributing to that reduction may have been the reticence of some people to take holidays and go to the beach for economic reasons," Burgess said. "We noticed similar declines during the recession that followed the events of 2001, despite the fact that human populations continued to rise."

Shark attacks dropped in the United States and abroad in 2008, Burgess said. In recent years, vacationing tourists have been attacked off beaches in remote parts of the globe, such as Cocos Island in the Indian Ocean, where none was reported in the past, he said.

There were four fatal attacks last year an average number compared with only one in 2007, which marked a two-decade low. Two of the deaths were in Mexico, one was in Australia and one was in the United States.

La Nia, a meteorological condition that brings water masses and deep ocean creatures closer to shore, probably was a factor in the deaths of two male surfers and injury of a third that occurred in less than a month along a resort-studded stretch of Mexico's southern Pacific coast, Burgess said. The U.S. fatality was a 66-year-old man swimming at Solana Beach, Calif., while the Australian death occurred along the country's eastern coast and involved a 16-year-old boy.


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Contact: George Burgess
gburgess@flmnh.ufl.edu
352-392-2360
University of Florida
Source:Eurekalert

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