VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – It seems Volusia County won’t be giving up its title as the unofficial shark bite capital of the world any time soon.
The Florida Museum of Natural History’s International Shark Attack File recently published its summary of shark bites for 2020 and once again, Florida topped the list.
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There were 129 reported attacks worldwide last year, 33 of which occurred in the U.S., which has more bites than any other country. Australia comes in at second with 18. Other than those two, no other country had more than one incident.
Of the 33 bites in America, 16 occurred in Florida, putting it at the top of the list for states. Half of those bites occurred in Volusia County.
That brings Volusia County to a grand total of 320 recorded bites dating back to 1882, more than any other county, state or territory in the world. Nearby Brevard County trails Volusia as second in the state with 153 bites in that same time period. For the whole state, the number of attacks is 867.
The territory of New South Wales in Australia is next in the world with 261 bites, although the records there date back to the 1700s. The cumulative total of bites for all of Australia during that time period is 666.
The instances included in International Shark Attack File’s 2020 review include 57 unprovoked bites, 39 provoked attacks, six boat bites as well as others.
Researchers considered an attack to be provoked when the person is feeding the shark, harassing it, hunting it or interfering with it in any other way. An unprovoked instance means the person was not interacting with the shark before the bite.
All of the attacks in Florida in 2020 were on “surface recreationists,” meaning they were surfing, water skiing, on a float, rafting or engaged in a similar activity.
It’s unclear what impact, if any, the COVID-19 pandemic had on shark bites last year.
While the data may seem staggering, experts said the number of unprovoked bites is down compared to the 64 bites in 2019. However, 2020 was the deadliest year since 2013 with 10 fatalities as a result of unprovoked attacks. None of the deaths were in the U.S.
Still, the odds of falling prey to a shark remain low.
To reduce their risks, swimmers should stay in groups, avoid wearing jewelry, avoid wearing high-contrast colors such as yellow and stay out of the water if they have an open wound. Excessive splashing and swimming at dawn or dusk is also discouraged.
To read the full breakdown from the International Shark Attack File, click here.