2020 was the deadliest year for shark bites since 2013


Doyle Rice
 
| USA TODAY

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  • In the U.S., there were 3 deaths: one each in California, Hawaii and Maine, which was a first for the state.
  • While deaths were up last year, the number of non-fatal attacks around the world was low in 2020, at 57.
  • The odds of being killed by a shark in the U.S. are 3,748,067 to 1.

In what’s called “an unusually deadly year,” sharks killed 10 people around the world in unprovoked attacks in 2020, the highest number since 2013, according to a report released Monday by the International Shark Attack File. 

Six of the deaths were in Australian waters and three were in the USA: one each in California, Hawaii and Maine, which was a first for the state. The other death was in St. Martin’s, a Caribbean island.

Ten is a high number: Two deaths were reported in 2019 and four in 2018. The annual global average is five or six. 

Though deaths were up last year, the number of nonfatal attacks was low in 2020, at 57. That’s well below the average of 80.

Though the incidence of bites both in the USA and globally declined, 2020’s numbers represent a more drastic drop than would be expected based on an analysis of long-term trends, the International Shark Attack File said in a statement. 

“As we first reported in June, the observed drop in shark bite incidents may have been caused by the widespread quarantines, closed beaches and minimized vacation travel in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the ISAF said. 

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Researchers at the file, based at the Florida Museum of Natural History, track attacks in the shark’s natural habitat in which there was no human provocation.

Consistent with long-term trends, the USA experienced the most unprovoked shark bites in 2020 – 33 confirmed cases.

Overall, in the global “battle” between humans and sharks, it’s hardly a fair fight. Worldwide, humans kill about 100 million sharks and rays each year. Most are killed by commercial fishermen for their fins and flesh.

The odds of being killed by a shark in the USA are 3,748,067 to 1.

Bees, wasps, dogs and snakes are responsible for far more deaths each year in the USA than sharks, the ISAF said.

Most U.S. deaths from animals are not because of wild critters such as mountain lions, wolves, bears or sharks but are a result of encounters with farm animals, insect stings or dog attacks, according to a study in February 2018.

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