Expert: Shark attack trends offer clues to avoid unprovoked events

Data shows surfers at highest risk of attack

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. - The setting is just right for interaction between sharks and people in the waters off Central Florida's beaches, including Volusia County, the "shark-bite capital" of the world -- that's according to George Burgess, director of the Florida Program of Shark Research and keeper of the International Shark Attack File.

[WEB EXTRA: Click here for information on the Florida Program for Shark research]

Burgess, whose office is tucked in the basement of the Florida Museum of Natural History, said the combination of warm ocean waters and lots of surfers, swimmers and tourists has continued a trend that comes down to this: more people, more shark attacks.

"Humans are just simply pushing the equation," Burgess said. "Sharks plus humans equals attack."

Florida has averaged 21 attacks every year over the past decade, according to the International Shark Attack File.

In 2013, Volusia County recorded eight unprovoked attacks, putting it at the top of unprovoked shark attacks statewide. That trend appears to be continuing this year.

Capt. Tamra Marris, of Volusia County Beach Safety Ocean Rescue, told Local 6 that five confirmed attacks have already been recorded this year.

Burgess said attacks worldwide are below past averages but that it's too early to celebrate yet.

Always at risk are surfers who Burgess said "play at their own tune."

"The typical attack victim in Florida is a young, white male between the ages of 14 and 24, which is the demographic of what you see surfing most of the time," Burgess said.

Burgess said surfers understand the risk and that he's never interviewed a surfing shark attack victim that has issued a negative comment about sharks.

The timeline is important, too. Burgess said sharks are most active between dusk and dawn, so an early or late-night swim should be avoided.

Of course, there are still shark attacks in the middle of the day, and Burgess said the trends say it all.

"We enter the water beginning late-morning hours, have the peak of our activity in the afternoon and trail off as we go back home for dinner," Burgess said. "Amazingly enough, the number of attacks follows that pattern precisely."

Other safety tips: stay in groups, don't wear metal or shiny jewelry and don't swim near fishermen -- where's there's bait, there's sharks.

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