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Thursday, 6 September, 2001, 16:26 GMT 17:26 UK
Shark attack factfile
Sharks are once again being vilified in the media after a spate of attacks off the American east coast. But many marine experts believe the bad press paints an incomplete picture. BBC News Online examines the facts.

  • There are usually between 70 and 100 shark attacks every year, resulting in 5 to 15 deaths worldwide. In 2000, 10 fatalities were recorded.

    The three types of unprovoked attack (Source ISAF)
    Hit and run: Most common and usually when the shark mistakes person for normal prey. Repeat attacks rare.
    Bump and bite: The shark circles and often bumps the victim before attacking. Repeat attacks common. Injuries severe or fatal.
    Sneak: Strike occurs without warning. Injuries severe or fatal

  • The number of annual attacks is increasing. The International Shark Attack Files recorded 536 attacks in the 1990s, the highest in any decade so far.

  • While the actual number of shark attacks is going up, so too are the numbers of bathers. There is no indication of any change in the per capita rate of attack.

  • Any large shark - about two metres or longer - is a potential threat to humans, but the three main attacking species are the white shark, the tiger shark and the bull shark.

  • The white shark has been implicated in 43% of attacks on divers. The species has attacked 348 times around the world since records began in 1580.

  • Most attacks occur in waters near the shore. Areas with steep drop-off sites or near sandbars are particularly vulnerable as sharks congregate in these areas to feed.

  • The basking shark, an endangered species
    Do sharks get a bad press? This basking shark is harmless to man
    Shark attack injury is less common than other beach-related injuries such as stingray and jellyfish stings.

  • More people are injured or killed on land while driving to and from the beach than by the sharks they might meet when they get there.

  • Bees, wasps and snakes are responsible for far more fatalities each year than sharks.

  • Humans kill an estimated 25 million sharks each year, either through commerical fishing for meat or fins, or purely for sport.

    The BBC's Enda Twomey reports
    "The sharks were so plentiful, surfers had to jump over them to catch waves"
    See also:

    05 Sep 01 | Americas
    Shark attacks: On the increase?
    04 Sep 01 | Americas
    US mounts aerial shark patrols
    20 Aug 01 | Americas
    Spate of shark attacks off Florida
    12 Aug 01 | Americas
    Shark attack boy leaves hospital
    09 Feb 01 | Americas
    Shark attacks at record high
    20 Nov 00 | Americas
    Pensioner fights off shark
    07 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
    Shark-shooters prepare to kill
    31 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
    Explosive end to shark 'attraction'
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