2015 broke a 15-year-record with 96 recorded shark attacks, all of them unprovoked

By Alex Heigl
Updated February 09, 2016 05:34 PM
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While the annual flood of shark attack coverage is as regular as the tide (#OceanPuns), last year was actually something of a high-water mark.

The University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File (the maintenance of which has to be the most demoralizing-but-kind-of-awesome clerical job in the world) clocked a record number of shark attacks in 2015: 98, with six fatalities. Apparently, it boils down to the simple fact that there are more people in the world, and the shark population is recovering from the damage we’ve done to it, which puts us in the odd position of being in greater danger from creatures we’ve worked to save. Also, all of 2015’s attacks were unprovoked, because sharks don’t need a reason, ever.

“Sharks plus humans equals attacks,” George Burgess, curator of the file, wrote in a press release. “As our population continues to rapidly grow and shark populations slowly recover, we’re going to see more interactions.” Burgess also added that climate change played a factor: As ocean temperatures rise and warmer weather approaches earlier and earlier every year, more people (and more sharks) are taking to larger swaths of the ocean sooner.

2015 broke the last record of 84 attacks, set in 2000. It also represented a 100 percent increase in fatalities year-over-year. Two of the year’s six fatalities occurred off the island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean, which has seen seven shark-related deaths since 2011. Australia, Egypt, New Caledonia and the United States each recorded a single death.

The U.S. had the highest number of attacks (59), with Florida seeing the lion’s (shark’s) share of incidents (30). Internationally, Australia and South Africa came in at numbers 1 and 2 on the list, with 18 and eight attacks, respectively, while in the U.S., North and South Carolina tied for second with eight attacks each. Hawaii had seven attacks and the country’s only fatality.

“We can and should expect the number of attacks to be higher each year,” Burgess wrote. “When we visit the sea, we’re on their turf.” He added, however, that more people were killed in 2015 by spiders, dogs and lightning.

In an unrelated announcement, and as part of the fear-mongering Media Industrial Complex, we’re announcing three special weeks of coverage for 2016, in addition to Shark Week: Spider Week, Dog Week, and Lightning Week.