Trends in global shark attacks

Published on
27. February 2019

Trends in global shark attacks

Stephen R. Midway, Tyler Wagner, George H. Burgess


Shark attacks are a global phenomenon that attracts widespread attention and publicity, often with negative outcomes for shark populations. Despite the widespread perceptions of shark attacks, trends in human water activities and shark populations are both dynamic, resulting in variable rates of shark attacks over space and time. Understanding variable trends in shark attacks may contribute to a better understanding of risk, and a more tempered response in the wake of an attack. We found that global shark attack rates are low, yet variable across global regions and over decades. Countries with low populations were found to have the highest rates of attack, while countries with high populations (U.S.A., Australia, South Africa) tended to have overall low attack rates, but also much more interannual variability. From the 1960s to the present, those countries with the highest populations also tended to be the places where attack rates have increased. Ultimately, shark attack risk is also driven by local conditions (e.g., time of day, species present); however, a global scale understanding of attack rates helps place risk into perspective and may contribute to a more scientifically-grounded discussion of sharks, and their management and conservation.

PLoS ONE 14(2):e0211049, DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0211049


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