The number of shark attacks in the United States, which typically makes up about two-thirds of the total worldwide, dropped from 50 in 2007 to 41 in 2008, Burgess said. Thirty-two of those attacks were in Florida the same number as the previous year followed by North Carolina and South Carolina, with three each; Hawaii, two; and California, one.
Florida, with its warm waters, has more sharks, including black tip sharks and spinner sharks, species not found in lower temperatures, Burgess said. "A lot less attacks occur off Long Island, New York, than Florida simply because there are fewer sharks up there," he said.
Within Florida, Volusia County continued its dubious distinction as the world's shark bite capital with 22 incidents, its highest yearly total since 2001, Burgess said. Attractive waves off New Smyrna Beach on the central Atlantic coast are popular with surfers, he said.
As in past years, surfers accounted for most of the world's attacks 57 percent followed by swimmers and waders, 36 percent; and divers, 8 percent, he said. These numbers are rounded up, which is why they total more than 100 percent.
"Surfers are the heavy favorites largely because the splashing of arms and particularly the kicking of feet at the water's surface where visibility is poor is provocative to sharks," Burgess said. "They result in what we think are cases of mistaken identity, where the shark interprets the irregular splashing to be activities of its normal prey."
As a group, surfers seem to accept the risks of pursuing a sport in the ocean, he said.
"I've yet to find a surfer who says he or she won't go back into the water after a bite or a nip," he said. 'Some of them may be looking over their shoulders a little bit more than they did before, but the reality is they understand where humans fall in the grand order of things."
Burgess said he doubts the economic recession is likely to deter surfers because t
|Contact: George Burgess|
University of Florida