The U.S. Discovery Channel’s Shark Week will kick off later this month, providing shark lovers with hours of back-to-back content on the cold-blooded predators.
According to the Florida Museum of Natural History, there’s a 1 in 3,748,067 chance of getting killed by a shark. While this shows that fatal attacks are extremely rare, a number of cases do occur each year. As our chart shows, the decade 2010-2019 saw the greatest number of shark bites recorded around the world, totalling 752 individual cases, of which 544 were on ‘surface recreationists’ and 178 were on swimmers and bathers. These attacks were mostly not fatal.
A surface recreationist is someone that carries out activities on the surface of a body of water, whether that’s surfing, water skiing, windsurfing, boogie boarding, rafting, or floating on inflatables. Surface recreationists have been the most at risk group when it comes to shark attacks over the past forty years. In fact, in 2021, surfers and people enjoying board sports made up 51 percent of the year’s attacks, versus swimmers and people wading through waters, who made up 39 percent, body surfers or those engaging in ‘horseplay’, at six percent, and snorkeling or freediving, at four percent, according to the site. The Florida Museum explains that the rise in the number of dangerous encounters over the past years comes down to population growth, as more people are engaging in activities that encroach on sharks’ natural habitats.
2021 saw a total of 73 unprovoked shark attacks worldwide, nine of which were fatal. Conservationists argue that this pales in comparison to the estimated 20 to 30 million sharks killed by humans each year through commercial and sport fishing. Overfishing is a serious problem in many regions of the world, with several species now severely under threat. For this reason, different governments and authorities have passed legislation that protects certain species of sharks. For instance, in the U.S, the great white has been protected in California since 1994 and in American Atlantic waters since 1997.