At a conference recently held in Tampa, Fla., marine scientists attempted to dispel some of the myths surrounding the frequency of shark attacks. According to George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File at the University of Florida, “The rate of shark attacks has not risen.” ISAF data lists a total of 76 unprovoked attacks for 2001, down from the previous year. ISAF statistics show that the likelihood of being killed by a lightening strike or a home-improvement-related accident is much greater.
We humans are a much greater threat to shark populations than they could ever pose to us. Millions of sharks are slaughtered each year for their fins, and many species have seriously declined in population as a result of sport fishing. The fact that the animals reproduce very slowly has only accelerated their decline.
To avoid an unprovoked attack, common sense is the order of the day. Try to stay out of the water at dawn and dusk, when the animals are feeding, and do not tempt them with open or bleeding wounds. Bright shiny objects, such a knives or jewelry should be left aboard or ashore, and if possible, swim with a partner.