Shark attacks rising - humans to blame

2012-02-13 22:34

Washington - Sharks killed twice as many swimmers and surfers last year than in 2010, with the increase due largely to a growth in tourism and changing shark patterns due to global warming.

There were 12 deaths in 46 shark attacks in 2011, a mortality rate of more than 25% compared to an average of under 7% in the last 10 years, according to statistics from the University of Florida.

Countries that recorded shark attack deaths included Australia with three fatal out of a total of 11 attacks; South Africa, two fatal out of five; the French island of Reunion, two deaths in four attacks; and Seychelles with two attacks both of which ended in death.

Other countries with non-fatal shark attacks included Indonesia (3), Mexico (3), Russia (3) and Brazil (2).

Three locations not normally associated with high numbers of shark attacks - Reunion, Seychelles and New Caledonia - registered a total of seven attacks with five fatal outcomes, according to Burgess.

"Those areas were not traditional area for tourism in recent years," the scientist explained.

"Over the last decade, more and more tourists have been going there... So we are getting more people coming to places where there are sharks, and the local communities are not prepared for the number of people going into the water at this time."

He added that medical facilities in these areas may not be developed enough to provide treatment in emergencies of this type.

In addition to the influx of tourists, the effects of global warming has meant sharks migrating to regions where they were not normally seen.

Beach safety

Last August, authorities even in the far east Russian reported three non-fatal shark attacks in the Primorye region - not a normal location for the predator.

The United States experienced the most shark attacks last year with a total of 29 out of 75 reported around the world, but suffered no fatal cases, George Burgess, an ichthyologist from the University of Florida, which published the "International Shark Attack File", told AFP.

"In the US and in Florida, where the most shark attacks occur in the US, we have seen a decline over a 10-year period," he said of the fatalities

According to Burgess, this could be a result of the economic crisis of recent years, which has reduced the number of tourists coming to Florida beaches.

He noted that the United States had done a "good job" to ensure safety in areas where sharks and humans get together.

Burgess said the reduction in the number of fatalities had been made possible due to good beach safety personnel, reliable emergency care, and the availability of many good hospitals and other medical facilities.

"As a result, when trauma occurs, when there are serious injuries in the water, we can get the people to the hospital quickly," he said.

Still, the number of fatal shark attacks remains very low compared to other causes of death, Burgess observed.

The number also appears lower still compared to the 30 million to 70 million sharks killed by humans each year, noted the scientist. The shark killing, he said, was a "tragedy".

A third of all shark species, including the Great White, are threatened with extinction because of overfishing and demand in Asia for their fins, to which people wrongly attribute aphrodisiac properties.

  • BrainbowGold - 2012-02-14 02:52

    Seychelles never had shark attacks up until last year. In fact, you could hardly ever find sharks on your dives in the Seychelles. Best look into their exploitative fishing industry for leads...

      Preshen - 2012-02-15 08:48

      just stay out of the water

      an0nthinker - 2012-03-31 09:49

      Tis true @Brainbow. Since tourist industry and chumming there's been a definite uptake of attacks. In SA as well. Hardly ever saw sharks when shore diving, now suddenly there they are.

  • Peter - 2012-02-14 06:20

    What is it with Asia and its obsession with fertility and sexual performance? There certainly seem to be more than enough people in that part of the world, so they seem fertile enough? Most mumbo jumbo "muti" seems to revolve around mens lack of confidence in their "manhood".

      braamc - 2012-02-14 07:22

      Small penises

      Anthony - 2012-02-14 08:08

      small brains

      Monique - 2012-02-14 13:17

      You know what they say, small feet....

  • Angling - 2012-02-14 06:43

    "Reunion, Seychelles and New Caledonia. Those areas were not traditional area for tourism in recent years," the scientist explained." Really??? I have great respect for the "international shark attack file" and the work they do, but this time around political correctness has taken center stage in their stat analysis.

  • Craig - 2012-02-14 06:57

    Hang on a second - 46 shark attacks and 12 deaths in one year worldwide? How many people swim in the sea each year - hundreds of millions? So your chances of getting attacked by a shark are about as likely as dying from choking on a shark fin soup, or busting a blood vessel at yet another shoddy piece of reporting. Less. And if you are attacked, you have a 1 in 4 chance, more or less, of surviving. This is hardly the stuff of horror movies, but certainly the stuff of weak and misleading headlines. It's bad propaganda and News24, being based in Cape Town, should really know better than to publish some gleefully sensationalist codswallop, without at least getting an inhouse journalist to draw these sorts of conclusions.

      Ken - 2012-02-21 20:06

      I think that a lot more people are killed by sharks than we know about. Lot's of people live in remote areas in undeveloped countries where little or no stats are available.

  • trixie.stathakis.osterloh - 2012-02-14 07:33

    Besides the fact that no one would go walking in the JHB Lion Park enclosure or swim in a river with crocodiles and hippos, I cant understand why people swim in the sea???? You choose to enter an area with a predator - you are taking a risk. There are a 100 million sharks killed every year... So one day if China and Japan have their way we will no longer have sharks, whales, dolphins, bears nor rhino!

      Leroy - 2012-02-14 08:25

      we swim cause we can, its a wonderful thing to do and something you surely are missing out on, can you swim?

      mike.oosthuyzen - 2012-02-14 10:33

      I prefer to be in the sea, cause I know statistically its way safer than being on our roads. Do the shocking statistics on road deaths stop you from driving your car?

      jbrandct - 2012-02-14 11:53

      "I can't understand why people swim in the sea?????" has to be one of the stupidest things I've read in a while. There are a million reasons why people would be in the ocean. be it sport, thrills, commercial reasons or just to plain dive for a lobster or two .... You might as well say South Africa has a high murder rate, I can't understand why people go outside ?

  • mike.clery - 2012-02-14 07:44

    It had to be in there somewhere - it's all "global warming's" fault.

      jbrandct - 2012-02-14 11:58

      Agreed. Everybody is a bloody expert on global warming these days. I hate being in a conversation and a person would mention "strange weather today" and everyone will shout "yes, it's all global warmings fault", yet not even the worlds top scientists can agree if global warming is indeed happening.

  • ian.klopper - 2012-02-14 08:04

    I agree with the cause of the problems being humans. I feel that overfishing and mismanagement of fish stocks are a major contributor to the increased incidents involving humans

  • hadedah - 2012-02-14 09:11

    exactly the same, we all blame global warming, but America has done little if nothing to stem their use of coal and oil for furnaces. our country is also following the course America has followed for years, why should we bother to stem the use of coal for furnaces and heating if America the so called leaders of the world dont stem the use of coal in their country and go to wind and Sun Power. it is free if our leaders see that America is stopping use coal so will we.

  • Mike - 2012-02-14 09:29

    30 to 70 Million sharks butchered each year vs. 46 shark attacks and 12 deaths - that says it all or? Who is the biggest and most cruel "shark" on earth.... us...

      Ian - 2012-02-14 09:47


  • E=MC2 - 2012-02-14 10:11

    well duh... the more people swim where shark LIVE, the more are going to be bitten. not rocket science

  • Heiku - 2012-02-14 11:15

    I disagree. Sharks are to blame.

  • hadedah - 2012-02-14 11:41

    Just for information there are more sharks on land than in the sea !!!! The sharks on Land are even more dangerous they not only bite you they take every thing you have..Sharks in the sea bite as you are part of the food chain. Sharks on Land take it all if they can.

  • Grant - 2012-02-14 12:43

    The bottom line : Sharks are attacking humans because they are hungry due to there being less of their natural diet (fish) about. I thought the increase of shark attacks in False Bay was due to Helen Zille being in charge but someone pointed out that the bay has been overfished so there are less seals which sharks used to eat.

  • ludlowdj - 2012-02-14 13:58

    We have a fresh history of seismic activity, As well as widely reported "trumpets" and "drums" all over the world including reports from divers to the same effect, increased seismic activity on the sea floor on its own is a valid and compelling reason for fish (including shark) migration, add to this human noise pollution from shipping, the effects of over fishing on established feeding grounds, changes in water temperatures due to climate change, not to even start on pollution and other attractants which man continues to pump into the sea on a daily basis and the migration of sharks as well as attacks are easy to explain and understand. People not involved in the sea as a means of survival, study or employment do not show the right amount of respect and caution when swimming in open waters (including Rivers) and warning from the established "sea dogs" normally fall on deaf ears.

  • Jessica Wright - 2012-02-15 11:40

    These asian "remedy" beliefs are utterly pathetic. Shark fin, rhino horn, and now lion bone? They have no medical properties, and we have access to 21st century medical care. Get with the programme. I'd be embarrassed if it was in my culture to decimate populations of wildlife for my backward, archaic traditions.

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