These fascinating fish are usually presented as creatures coming out from the depths of the sea to hunt and kill humans. But shark attack statistics show that the reality is different.
They reveal that shark bites aren’t as common and deadly as shown in the press. In fact, most attacks are just sharks exploring their territory or mistaking a human for one of the species they like to eat.
But let’s see some of the most interesting numbers on shark attacks.
What Are the Top 10 Most Important Shark Attack Statistics to Be Aware of
- The odds of getting bitten by a shark are 1 in 3,748,067.
- The number of shark attacks worldwide decreased by one-quarter in 2018.
- The USA tops the list of the highest number of shark attacks recorded.
- Over half of the US shark attacks happen in Florida.
- Surprisingly, death by selfie is more common than being eaten by a shark.
- Great white sharks are the most frequently implicated species in shark attacks.
- There are over 100 million shark deaths per year around the world.
- Shark finning and overfishing are pushing sharks to the brink of extinction.
- There is an average of around 7 crocodile attacks per year in Australia.
- Worldwide, Australia is in second place regarding the number of shark attacks.
Curious to learn more about where, why, and how often sharks attack? What about attacks by other wild animals considered to be dangerous and lethal?
Read through these eye-opening facts and figures to discover the truth about why wild animals turn on humans.
Why do Sharks Attack People?
However, they still happen, so let’s see how many shark attacks per year there are, why they happen, and when.
1. The odds of getting bitten by a shark are 1 in 3,748,067.
Despite the popular belief, shark attacks are pretty rare. Actually, there is a higher chance of dying from fireworks than getting eaten by a shark — one in 340,733.
People are also 47 times more likely to die from a lightning strike than a shark bite, which is a risk that surfers take every time they hit the waves during storms.
2. Judging by shark attack statistics compared to other deaths, people are more likely to drown than get bitten by a shark.
The odds of death by drowning are one in 1,134 — considerably higher than death by shark bites. Other causes of death more common than shark attacks include traffic accidents, a champagne cork, and a cold.
3. Surprisingly, death by selfie is more common than being eaten by a shark.
In the period between 2011 and 2017, 259 people around the world died 137 selfie-taking-related accidents. For comparison, only 50 people were killed by sharks in the same period, according to the data on the average shark deaths per year.
4. 61% of shark attacks involve board sports and surfing.
Boardsports usually take place in surf zones where sharks are known to swim. Also, board sports cause a lot of splashing, i.e., the kind of water disturbances that might attract sharks.
Swimmers were involved in 26% of shark attacks, snorkelers and free divers account for 4% of all attacks, while body surfers and scuba divers make up 5% and 4% of incidents, respectively.
5. Shark attacks are most likely to occur in September, shark attacks statistics indicate.
Analysis of the number of attacks in Florida from 1926 to 2018 shows people are most likely to encounter a shark in September. Data shows that there were 103 attacks in September — much higher than in other months of the year.
Although it’s commonly believed that sharks hunt during dusk and dawn, research indicates that the most dangerous time to be in the water is from 2–3 pm.
6. Several factors contribute to shark attacks on people.
Why do sharks attack humans? The number of people in the water is directly connected to the number of bites. This could explain why most of the incidents occur in popular destinations for water activities.
Take the French Reunion Island as an example. It has witnessed a significant rise in tourism and an increase in shark attacks as a result.
Another reason, experts say, is the growing number of seals, one of shark’s favorite prey. The seal population has increased in Australia and off Cape Cod in the US. This is another possible explanation for the recent rise in shark attacks in these regions.
7. Why do sharks attack? Facts reveal that climate change also contributes to shark attacks on humans.
Water pollution, habitat disruption, and a shift in prey distribution due to global warming cause sharks to gather in certain hotspots around the world and thus increase the chances of human-shark interactions.
8. Sometimes, sharks are just curious.
Shark’s mouth serves as a sensory organ. It allows them to examine an unfamiliar object by biting it. So sharks might bite people to check if they have the same fat content as some of their favorite prey, which we don’t.
The conclusion from analyzing shark attack statistics is that humans are too bony and don’t have enough meat and fat to satisfy sharks’ appetite.
9. There are three kinds of shark attacks.
The most common include “hit-and-run” attacks, which typically take place in surf zones and are the result of poor visibility. In these attacks, sharks would usually just bite their prey and — deeming it unsavory — swim away.
The other two more serious types of attacks include “bump and bite” and “sneak” attacks, which result in the most casualties but are quite rare.
Shark Attack Statistics Worldwide
Though slowly, shark attacks have been reducing over the years. Let’s see the latest data.
10. The number of shark attacks worldwide decreased by one-quarter in 2018.
(The Guardian, Florida Museum of Natural History)
The number of shark attacks per year declined considerably in 2018, from the annual average of 84–66 confirmed cases.
According to the International Shark Attack File (ISAF), a provoked attack is when a human initiates physical contact with a shark. In contrast, an unprovoked attack is defined as one initiated by a shark in its natural habitat.
So how many people die from sharks a year? All in all, there were four unprovoked fatal bites in 2018 — lower than the long-term average of six fatalities a year.
11. There was one fatal shark attack in the US in 2018.
The one deadly attack took place in Cape Cod when a 26-year-old boogie boarder died after being bitten by a shark, presumably a great white. This was the first fatal shark bite in the state of Massachusetts since 1936.
12. There were several fatal shark attacks that took place in Australia, Egypt, and Brazil in 2018.
(Florida Museum of Natural History, CNN)
Brazil and Egypt reported three bites and one fatality each in 2018. This was an increase in shark attack deaths per year from a single nonfatal attack the previous year.
Australia also recorded one casualty, a paddleboarder who was attacked in Cid Harbour, Queensland. Authorities advise avoiding this area as food scraps left in the harbor are known to attract sharks.
13. The number of shark attacks further declined in 2019.
How many shark attacks were there in 2019? A total of 140 human-shark interactions took place. Data reveals 64 were unprovoked attacks while 41 were provoked. This is far below the 5-year average (2014–2018) of 82 unprovoked shark bites.
In 2019, five fatal attacks were recorded, three of which were provoked.
14. Two fatal attacks occurred in the Bahama Islands and Reunion Island in 2019.
One of the deadly attacks occurred off Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean. Surfing and water activities are limited there due to the risks of shark attacks.
According to Reunion Island shark attack statistics, this was the 24th incidence and the 11th fatal attack on this island since 2011.
The other fatal incident involved a 21-year-old California resident who had been snorkeling on Rose Island in the Bahamas.
15. Boats and post-mortem bites account for the remaining attacks.
In 2019, 12 of the remaining 35 shark attacks involved motorized vehicles (up from nine in 2018).
One involved post-mortem bites (down from four in 2018), and one implicated a diver in a public aquarium. Three incidents most likely didn’t involve a shark and were classified as “doubtful.”
Where Do the Most Shark Attacks Occur?
Don’t worry, shark attacks don’t occur absolutely everywhere around the world. Here are the most common locations.
16. The USA tops the list of the highest number of shark attacks recorded.
(ISAF, Florida Museum of Natural History)
The US accounted for a whopping 64% of the total worldwide attacks in 2019.
Shark attack statistics for 2020 reveal there were 57 confirmed incidents and 41 the year before.
There were also 32 recorded bites in 2018, and a staggering 53 the year before, making the US the country with the highest number of confirmed shark attacks per year in the world.
17. Over half of US shark attacks happened in Florida.
(Florida Museum of Natural History, ISAF)
Florida is the state with the highest number of bites historically. In 2018, Florida recorded 16 unprovoked attacks. A year later, this state accounted for 51% of all US and 33% of all global attacks of this kind.
Even though these numbers might seem high, they are still down from the 5-year annual average of 32 attacks, Florida shark attack statistics reveal.
18. The number of shark attacks in Hawaii and California increased.
In addition to Florida, other states that have witnessed shark attacks include Hawaii and California.
Hawaii had nine shark attacks in 2019, up from three the previous year. Moreover, California had three bites in 2019 compared to one incident in 2018.
Other states on the list are North Carolina with three bites in 2018 and 2019, and South Carolina with three attacks in 2018.
Massachusetts and New York are also on the list with two attacks each in 2018. Lastly, Georgia and Texas had one attack each in 2018, as the US shark attack statistics show.
19. Worldwide, Australia is in second place regarding the number of shark attacks.
(The Guardian, ISAF)
There were 20 unprovoked shark attacks in 2018 in the Land Down Under and one fatal attack. This is actually lower than Australia’s average of two deadly attacks a year.
The number of incidents decreased even more in 2019 to 11 unprovoked attacks and no fatalities.
20. Brazil has had 107 shark attacks and 23 casualties from 1931–2019.
So, how many shark deaths per year are there in the world? Stats show that other countries where shark attacks are frequent include South Africa and the Mascarene Islands.
During the same period, South Africa had 255 attacks, 54 of which were fatal.
Moreover, the Mascarene Islands (Reunion, Mauritius, and Rodrigues) had 46 attacks, 27 of which weren’t fatal.
21. Gansbaai in South Africa is one of the most dangerous shark beaches.
(The Telegraph, Getaway)
Also known as Shark Alley, this area is home to a colony of 60,000 seals. The great white sharks are known to hunt them.
Despite the nickname, great white shark attack statistics show there are around five to 10 attacks every year. Most of them happen due to sharks’ curiosity, rather than their hunt for humans.
On the other hand, being one of the most dangerous shark beaches comes with economic benefits. Tourists have been swarming to South Africa for a chance to go cage diving with great whites, which in turn boosts the local economy.
Shark Attack Statistics by Species
Researchers have also discovered that not all shark pieces attack humans. Let’s see what the statistics on species say.
22. Only 5% of over 500 known species of sharks have been involved in attacks on humans.
(Florida Museum of Natural History, BBC)
The majority of shark attacks on humans involve three species: the great white shark, the tiger shark, and the bull shark.
All shark species differ in the way they hunt, where they live, and their motivations. Bull sharks, for example, hunt in shallow and murky water because they rely more on smell and electroreception than sight, the data suggest.
23. The data on the great white shark attack reveals the species is involved in most human-shark interactions.
What is the most dangerous shark in the world? Great white sharks are the most intimidating and deadliest. The species is believed to be responsible for 314 unprovoked attacks from 1580–2015, 80 of which were fatal.
These sharks typically eat seals or whales, and they usually hunt in open waters. Although, judging by some facts, they are known to come close to the shore, as well.
24. Tiger sharks are the second most dangerous shark in the world.
(ISAF, National Geographic)
Tiger sharks have killed a total of 34 people and are responsible for 95 unprovoked nonfatal attacks.
Unlike great whites who are known to release their prey after they find it uneatable, tiger sharks have a less discerning palate. This means they’re not in the habit of swimming away once they catch their dinner, shark attack statistics for 2021 reveal.
25. Bull sharks are usually found in shallow waters.
(National Geographic, Cleaner Seas)
And what is the most aggressive shark? Bull sharks may be the least known species of sharks, but they are potentially the most dangerous and most aggressive.
Because they swim where we swim, the chances of humans interacting with bull sharks are pretty high.
26. The whale shark is the biggest one in the world.
(National Geographic, Oceana.org)
They might be the largest, but according to the shark attack statistics, they are the least dangerous to humans. Growing to 60 feet in length, whale sharks only eat plankton.
The shortfin mako — known as the fastest shark in the world — is also not considered dangerous to people.
Some fatal attacks have been attributed to this shark, although in most incidents, some other shark species was responsible, most likely a great white.
How Many Sharks Are Killed by Humans Each Year?
Statistics show that people kill much more sharks than sharks kill people. It may sound unbelievable, but the numbers don’t lie.
27. There are over 100 million shark deaths per year around the world.
This translates to around 11,000 sharks being killed across the world every hour. On the other hand, there have been 1,400 shark attacks in the US from 1837–2017, only a handful of which were fatal.
28. The demand for shark fin soup causes most shark killings.
Shark finning is a cruel and vicious method of killing sharks. After the fin is cut off, the rest of the body is thrown back in the ocean where sharks bleed to death.
When we take a look at the number of shark deaths per year, we see that 1.3–2.7 million of the sharks killed for fin soup belong to the endangered scalloped hammerhead species and the smooth hammerhead, currently listed as vulnerable by the IUCN.
29. Shark finning and overfishing are pushing sharks to the brink of extinction.
(BBC, Smithsonian Ocean)
Sharks are not created for massive fishing because they have low reproductive rates and mature slowly. Therefore, overfishing can destroy an entire population.
Shark population statistics show that certain shark species in Australia have declined by 75–90% as a result of shark culling. Stats show a growing number of interactions, thus initiating the deliberate killing of sharks by authorities.
30. Sharks are incredibly important to the health of the ocean and the planet.
As apex predators, sharks keep certain species from becoming too invasive and thus support diversity in the seas, protect coral reefs, and balance the food chain.
Sharks also consume sick and weak animals, maintaining the health of the ocean, and we all know how important that is.
Do Alligators Eat People? Essential Stats on Other Water Animals
Sharks may be big and scary with their sharp teeth, but they’re not the deadliest on the planet. They’re not even the deadliest marine animal!
31. The increase in the number of alligator attacks is linked to a rise in population, alligator attack statistics suggest.
(Business Insider, WFTV)
Estimates show that there are around 5 million alligators in the US. They are commonly found in the Southeast. However, the majority live in Florida, which would explain why this state has the highest record of alligator bites.
How to avoid getting bitten? Do not engage gators. Don’t feed them or go near their nests, and respect the warning signs.
32. There have been 401 confirmed cases of alligator bites in Florida since 1948.
Of all these attacks, 23 have been fatal, alligator attacks in Florida statistics show. This isn’t a huge number given that the Sunshine State is home to more than a million gators.
33. Of 23 crocodilian species, only 8 are known to engage in unprovoked attacks.
American alligators are one of those species. Although they’re considered less dangerous as alligators are pickier than other species when it comes to their food.
Also, only 6% of alligator attacks are fatal, compared to the 63% death rate in Nile crocodile attacks, alligator attack statistics tell us.
34. Around 1,000 people die from crocodile bites every year.
Most of these deaths happened in Africa. Like other animals, crocodiles aren’t out to get humans. Most of these attacks are either a case of mistaken identity or crocs defending their territory or young.
35. There is an average of around 7 crocodile attacks per year in Australia.
A quarter of croc attacks in Australia are fatal. Fifty years ago, crocodiles in Australia were on the verge of extinction. Today, the croc population in Australia has rallied thanks to putting saltwater crocodiles on the list of protected animals back in 1971.
36. Not all crocodiles are aggressive.
Crocodiles living in ponds near the small town of Paga in northern Ghana are some of the most peaceful representatives of this animal species. They don’t attack humans, and they’re perfectly happy swimming with children or taking pictures with tourists.
37. The cone snail is one of the deadliest marine animals.
(All That Is Interesting)
Cone snails are more dangerous than the most aggressive shark. Facts reveal they emit a poison that paralyzes their prey, after which it swallows it whole.
The good news is that cone snails aren’t big fans of human meat. The only instances of cone snail deaths are if a human picks up the creature or steps on it. According to the data, cone snails are responsible for 30 human deaths.
38. What beach has the most shark attacks?
The ISAF has named New Smyrna Beach in Volusia County, Florida, “the shark bite capital of the world.”
In 2019, nine shark attacks took place here, consistent with the annual average for shark bites in the area. In other words, 43% of all incidents in Florida happened in this county.
So, if you ever visit New Smyrna Beach, make sure you follow all safety regulations and be cautious in the water.
39. What are sharks attracted to?
Sharks are believed to react more to sound and smell rather than sight. Some theories propose sharks are attracted to certain types of sounds made by a surfer in trouble, a sick fish, and the smell of blood.
The presence of blood, however, isn’t enough to provoke a shark attack, unless it’s combined with other elements, like splashing in the water or wearing jewelry (which looks like the scales of fish that sharks eat).
Some scientific tests have shown that sharks can distinguish colors, giving rise to “yum yum yellow” theories. Although these theories aren’t scientifically proven, it might be best to avoid wearing bright colors in the water.
40. What to do if a shark is circling you?
The first and most important thing is not to panic.
Try to use anything you have as a weapon for striking their sensitive gills and eyes. If you don’t have a weapon, use your hands and feet. Hit as hard as you can and be as hostile as possible.
Sharks aren’t bears, so playing dead won’t work. The best chance of escaping a shark attack is to fight back as best and viciously as you can.
41. Should you be afraid of sharks?
The short answer is no. As with other animals, it’s more likely that they’re more afraid of us than we are of them.
Sharks have attacked humans, and some attacks are fatal, but so have other animals like mosquitoes, cows, and horses. Also, there have been many interactions between sharks and humans that haven’t ended with bites or attacks.
42. How many shark attacks were there in 2020?
There were 57 confirmed cases of shark attacks in 2020. It was lower than the average of 80. Furthermore, there were 13 shark attack-caused fatalities, and 10 of them were unprovoked.
To Sum Up
Sharks aren’t the dangerous creatures of movies and scary stories. If anything, shark attack statistics show that the number of fatal and nonfatal attacks is declining.
These magnificent fish have survived four mass extinctions of species. Yet, they have trouble surviving humans. More and more sharks are hunted for their fins, caught in nets, and killed.
They are already on the list of endangered species, and their numbers are dwindling. So rather than people worrying about getting attacked by sharks, it’s sharks that should worry about humans and their harmful activities.
- All That Is Interesting
- Amusing Planet
- Business Insider
- Cleaner Seas
- Florida Museum of Natural History
- National Geographic
- National Geographic
- National Geographic
- NY Post
- Science Daily
- Smithsonian Ocean
- Smithsonian Ocean
- The Guardian
- The Guardian
- The Telegraph