According to the University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File report released on Monday, 53 people were attacked by sharks in U.S. waters in 2012, the most in more than a decade and or since 2000.
The number of U.S. attacks in 2012 marked an increase from 31 reported in 2011, although worldwide, the number was only slightly higher at 80 compared to 78 in 2011.
The 53 U.S. incidents include Hawaii and Puerto Rico, which are not recorded as occurring in North American waters in the International Shark Attack File database.
Florida led the country with 26, followed by Hawaii (10), California (5), South Carolina (5), North Carolina (2) and one each in Georgia, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon and Puerto Rico.
The 10 shark attacks off Hawaii was the highest since seven in 2007, more than its yearly average of four.
One fatality occurred in a vicious shark attack off the California coast back in October.
The 2012 U.S. fatality rate of two percent is far lower than the 22 percent for the rest of the world, which saw six deaths in shark attacks. This was likely due to superior safety and medical capabilities in the U.S., said George Burgess, who led the effort to compile the report.
Surfers and those participating in board sports were most often involved in the incidents, making up 60 percent of the attacks, the report said.
Following long-term trends, 42 people are typically attacked in North American waters each year, compared to the 53 recorded last year.
The number of shark attacks has steadily grown each decade since 1900, which the report attributes to a constantly increasing amount of time people spend in the water and changes in human behavior.
Burgess says humans actually pose a greater threat to sharks, than sharks do to humans.
“The concept of ‘let’s go out and kill them’ is an archaic approach to a shark attack problem, and its opportunities for success are generally slim-to-none,” said Burgess.
“In fact you’re not likely to catch the shark that was involved in the situation. The shark that was involved in the situation also isn’t necessarily likely to do it again,” He added.
He said estimates are that 30 million to 70 million sharks are killed every year in fisheries.
Despite the overall rise in shark attacks over the last year, Burgess said, your chances of being attacked is still fairly slim.