Shark attacks are often sensationalized in the media, and these fascinating fish are usually presented as creatures coming out from the depths of the sea to hunt and kill humans. The reality, as indicated by shark attack statistics, is that shark bites are not 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 actually like to eat.
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.
The 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.
- Only 5% of over 500 known species of sharks have been involved in attacks on humans.
- Great white sharks are the most frequently implicated species in shark attacks.
- Over 100 million sharks are killed every year.
- Shark finning and overfishing are pushing sharks to the brink of extinction.
- Most deaths arising from animal interactions are avoidable.
- Of 23 crocodilian species, only eight are known to engage in unprovoked attacks.
Shark Attack Facts
1. The odds of getting bitten by a shark are 1 in 3,748,067.
Despite popular belief, shark attacks are pretty rare. Actually, there is a higher chance of dying from fireworks (one in 340,733) than getting eaten by a shark. 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.
(MIT Technology Review, ISAF)
In 2016, 73 people died from taking a selfie, compared to just four people killed by sharks, in line with the number of average shark deaths per year.
4. 53% of shark attacks involve board sports and surfers.
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 25% of shark attacks, snorkelers and divers account for 11% of all attacks, while body surfers and scuba divers make up eight and 3% of incidents, respectively.
5. Shark attacks are most likely to occur in September, shark attack statistics from 2018 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, which would explain why most of the incidents occur in popular destinations for water activities. Take the French Reunion Island, which 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, which is a possible explanation for the recent rise in shark attacks in these regions.
7. According to animal attack facts, 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.
The mouths of sharks serve as sensory organs, allowing 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 the appetite of sharks.
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
10. The number of shark attacks worldwide decreased by one-quarter in 2018.
(The Guardian, Florida Museum of Natural History)
In 2018, we saw a considerable decline in the number of unprovoked shark attacks, 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 shark attacks were there in 2018? All in all, there were four unprovoked fatal bites — 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 in 2018 that took place in Australia, Egypt, and Brazil.
(Florida Museum of Natural History, CNN)
Brazil and Egypt reported three bites and one fatality each in 2018, which is an increase from a single nonfatal attack the previous year. Australia also recorded one casualty, a paddleboarder who was attacked in Cid Harbour, Queensland — an area authorities advise avoiding 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 last year, 64 of which 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. The 2 fatal attacks in 2019 occurred in the Bahama Islands and Reunion Island.
One of the deadly attacks occurred off Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean, where surfing and water activities are limited due to 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?
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. There were 41 confirmed incidents in 2019, 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 (nine incidents in 2019, up from three the previous year) and California (three bites in 2019 compared to one incident in 2018).
Other states on the list are North Carolina (three bites in 2018 and 2019), South Carolina (three attacks in 2018), Massachusetts and New York (two attacks each in 2018), and Georgia and Texas (one attack each in 2018), 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, which is 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.
According to world shark attack statistics, other countries where shark attacks are frequent include South Africa with 255 attacks, 54 of which were fatal, and the Mascarene Islands (Reunion, Mauritius, and Rodrigues) where 46 attacks were recorded, 27 of which were not 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 and the great white sharks that hunt them. Despite the nickname, great white shark attack statistics show there are around five to 10 attacks every year, most of them out of curiosity, rather than cases of sharks hunting 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
22. Only 5% of over 500 known species of sharks have been involved in the attacks on humans.
(Florida Museum of Natural History, BBC)
The majority of the shark attacks on humans involve three species: the great white shark, the tiger shark, and the bull shark. All species of sharks 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, bull shark attack statistics suggest.
23. Great white sharks are the most frequently implicated species in shark attacks.
What is the most dangerous shark in the world? Great white sharks are the most intimidating and deadliest of them all. This species of shark 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 great white shark attack facts, they are known to come close to the shore, as well.
24. Tiger sharks are the second most dangerous sharks 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, tiger shark attack statistics 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?
27. Over 100 million sharks are killed every year.
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. Estimates indicate that certain shark species in Australia have declined by 75–90% as a result of shark culling. Australian shark attack statistics show a growing number of interactions, thus initiating the deliberate killing of sharks by authorities. Also, the population of some shark species dropped by 60–70% due to overfishing.
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.
Other Wild Animal Attacks Statistics
31. Most deaths arising from animal interactions are avoidable.
From 2008–2015, there were 1,610 animal-related deaths in the US, 57% of which were the result of interactions with nonvenomous animals. Surprisingly, farm animals, insects, and dogs are the species most commonly responsible for human fatalities.
32. Mosquitos are the deadliest animals on Earth.
Malaria and other viruses and diseases spread by these insects are responsible for 750,000 deaths a year.
33. 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.
34. 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, which is not a huge number given that the Sunshine State is home to more than a million gators.
35. Of 23 crocodilian species, only 8 are known to engage in unprovoked attacks.
American alligators are one of those species, although they are 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, wild animal attacks statistics tell us.
36. Around 1,000 people die from crocodile bites every year.
(BBC, IUCN -CSG)
Most of these deaths happened in Africa. Like other animals, crocodiles are not out to get humans as most of these attacks are either a case of mistaken identity or crocs defending their territory or their young.
37. 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.
38. 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 do not attack humans, and they are perfectly happy swimming with children or taking pictures with tourists.
39. Of all marine animal attacks, the cone snail is one of the deadliest.
(All That Is Interesting)
Cone snails emit a poison that paralyzes its 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 a 2004 report, cone snails are responsible for 30 human deaths.
40. 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.
41. 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, is not 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 are not scientifically proven, it might be best to avoid wearing bright colors in the water.
42. 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 are not 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.
43. Should you be afraid of sharks?
The short answer is no. As with other animals, it’s more likely that they are 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 have not ended with bites or attacks.
To Sum Up
Sharks are not 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 been around for 450 million years, and they 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
- IUCN -CSG
- MIT Technology Review
- National Geographic
- National Geographic
- National Geographic
- Science Daily
- Smithsonian Ocean
- Smithsonian Ocean
- The Guardian
- The Guardian
- The Telegraph