Shark attacks are rare and fatal bites are even less common

ACROSS AMERICA – It’s beach season, and enough or not (hint: not), some people imagine they will be bitten and killed by a shark.

Oh, it happens.

But not very often. In fact, almost never.

David Angotti, the founder of floridapanhandle.com, has the statistics to back it up. He takes care of booking vacation rentals in the Florida Panhandle and by extension driving away travelers’ fears of being attacked by sharks while kayaking, snorkeling or just enjoying the surf. .

“Hey,” Angotti said, his voice thick with a drawl from Tennessee, “a coconut falling and hitting me on the head is more likely to cause my death at the beach than a shark attack.”

Sharks have gained a bad reputation in box office blockbusters such as “Jaws” and others making villain apex predators. With their jagged, dagger-shaped teeth, they look menacing – and that image alone can fuel galéophobia, or fear of sharks.

As the phobias subside, the likelihood of it occurring is quite unreasonable. Sharks don’t really want to eat you. And if they did, they’d swim to the top and scoop you up in one bite, rather than munching on to see if you taste good.

FYI, no. There are literally much tastier fish in the ocean.

But don’t be fooled by the hyperbole. Statistically speaking, the chances of you being attacked by a shark are virtually nil, says Angotti. And even if you are, your chances of survival are around 90%, according to data from Angotti.

Over the past 30 years, there have been 2,711 shark attacks worldwide, with a fatality rate of 10.7%, according to data gathered by Angotti and his team.

Angotti’s interactive world map visually describes when and where each of the 3,000 attacks occurred, along with other interesting facts.

The white fins on the map represent attacks that have survived, and the red fins represent lethal attacks. Each fin can be clicked to display detailed information about the attack and shark species.

Finally, the interactive data section allows users to quickly select custom or pre-populated date ranges and bring up interesting data including the most dangerous sharks, location of attacks, and worst time of day for them. attacks.

Sharks should fear us

If Angotti’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he’s the creator of the Fall Foliage Peaks Map, an interactive tool that lets people plan their fall vacation when the leaves are at their peak. glorious.

Just as this tool helps monetize smokymountains.com’s vacation rental business, Angotti hopes the interactive shark attack tool will bring vacationers to the Florida Panhandle.

But it includes data from most coastal states – and a few inland locations as well – because for Angotti, the goal is for people to have a great vacation, whether they book through his business or the one in the country. ‘a competitor.

The death rate, says Angotti, “is so astronomically low” that it is difficult to reconcile it with another statistic: More than a million sharks are killed each year, according to a study published in the journal Marine Policy.

In large part, sharks die from a practice called “shark finning” in which the fins are removed for fin soup, considered a delicacy, and the shark, bleeding profusely, is thrown back into the ocean. , where he is unable to swim properly and suffocates or dies from a loss of blood, according to the Smithsonian Institution.

The problem goes beyond cruelty.

Sharks on the brink of extinction

Shark populations have declined 71% since the 1970s, putting three quarters of shark species at risk of extinction, according to a study of 31 species of sharks and rays living on the high seas and published earlier this year. in the newspaper. Nature.

Nuno Queiroz, a marine ecologist with the Center for Research on Biodiversity and Genetic Resources, told Science that the study, in which he was not involved, offers “the first big picture” of the rate of abrupt decline of the population and “gives you an idea of ​​how ubiquitous fishing has been.”

In fact, more than three-quarters of shark and ocean ray species are now threatened with extinction according to the criteria of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List.

The IUCN study and serious predictions of shark survival point out that humans are greater predators of sharks than sharks are of humans.

In practice, the risk of a shark attack is almost zero, says Angotti. His data shows that people are about 50 times more likely to die from a lightning strike than from a shark attack, and about 10 times more likely to die from a fireworks accident than from an attack. shark.


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Plus, just getting to your vacation destination carries more risk than sharks in the ocean.

“While commercial air travel is widely considered to be one of the safest modes of transportation, the chances of dying in a plane crash are exponentially higher than just being attacked by a shark,” Angotti said. . “To put these numbers into perspective, there were 3,416 commercial airline fatalities around the world between 2011 and 2020.”

What do you prefer to do?

The project also included a YouGov survey of people’s opinions on sharks and shark attacks. One of the most surprising results, Angotti says, is that if they knew they would survive, 15 percent of those polled would volunteer to be attacked by a shark just to live to tell the story.

It also showed that people would rather have three other horrific experiences than being attacked by a shark:

  • 14% would prefer to be attacked by a bear.
  • 34% would prefer to fall from a building on the third floor.
  • 42 percent would prefer to be in a car crash at 70 mph on an interstate highway.

Angotti says the project started out as a fun research project after Floridapanhandle.com started receiving emails from potential visitors who weren’t comfortable sharing the ocean with sharks. But it quickly became a passion when Angotti was confronted with the harsh reality of the danger humans pose to sharks. He proudly calls himself an ambassador of the species.

“We believe that these interactive educational shark attack statistics will help the general public realize that shark attacks are incredibly rare and normally survivable,” he said. “Based on the data, we shouldn’t be afraid of sharks, we should rather protect them.

“The ecosystem is quickly disrupting itself,” says Angotti.


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