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Shark attacks around the world

What does two years of global shark incident reports look like?
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Jordan Hale and Greg J. Smith, August 6, 2013 5:17:35 PM

Given that it is Shark Week 2013, we felt obligated to dive into data of global shark-related incidents and attacks. Drawing on a spreadsheet maintained by the Global Shark Attack File, we’ve mapped every shark “close encounter” from August 1st, 2011 through this past weekend (August 4th, 2013). Here’s what we found:

First off, it is not hard to recognize the global “hotspots” for shark incidents. The east coast of the United States looms rather large, and Florida and the Caribbean are bustling with activity. Interestingly enough, none of these encounters were fatal.

Given this lack of intensity of attacks on the eastern seaboard, perhaps the Jaws franchise is based on a little hyperbole?

RELATED: The top 10 wackiest shark movies

Sharknados notwithstanding, there are considerably less incident reports on the west coast. A Dec. 31, 2012 attack at Surf Beach in Santa Barbara by a ~15-foot white shark and another further down the coast in Sinaloa, Mexico are North America’s two recent shark-related fatalities. Panning over to the Pacific reveals Hawaii is a hotbed of encounters, thankfully none of which were fatal – most of these attacks only resulted in damaged surfboards and kayaks.

The other major global hotspots are South Africa and Australia. South Africa’s entire coast is traced with incident reports, one of which was a fatal surfing-related attack in Plettenberg Bay. Moving northeast into the Indian Ocean towards the Arabian Sea, there were three fatal attacks. Also, note the strange incident report near Dubai: “attempting to kite surf from Egypt to Saudi Arabia – harassed by sharks but not injured by them.” That story probably deserves its own map. Australia definitely earns the dubious distinction of being the fatal shark attack capital of the world, and the majority of these occurred on the Southwestern tip of the country where there were five deaths, almost all of which involved sizeable white sharks.

To bring things back to the home front, there was a possible shark attack in Tofino on Vancouver island this past April. The metadata associated with that incident sheds a little doubt on the report though: “Salmon shark suspected, but unlikely.” Oh well, at least Canada got on the board. And researchers still have their eyes set on a number of Great Whites that have been flirting with Nova Scotia.

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Jordan Hale and Greg J. Smith

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