In the weeks and months following the release of the original movie Jaws, people were afraid to go into any body of water. Looking back on the film now, most of us have to laugh – especially because the chances of you being eaten alive by one are actually pretty slim. Trust us when we say there’s a lot more out there than underwater predators that could kill you.
So just what are your chances of being attacked by a shark? And what do you need to know about shark attacks?
States and Countries with the Most Shark Attacks
The US has by far the most shark attacks each year with almost twice as many attacks as Australia, the next most common country for shark attacks. South Africa is the third on the list, although experts speculate that the numbers could be skewed as not all attacks are reported.
Even though the US has the most shark attacks each year, with a total number of unprovoked attacks sitting at 1,657, the fatalities are very low at just 144. By comparison, Australia has 904 attacks with 259 fatalities and South Africa has 395 attacks and 96 fatalities.
Within the States, Florida has the most attacks followed by South Carolina, Hawaii and California. This might seem surprising to people, but it has more to do with human activities than sharks themselves.
In California, there are already strong measures in place to warn swimmers and surfers of sharks in the water, plus the big surfing times usually don’t coincide with other factors that bring sharks into the water. In Florida and South Carolina, there aren’t as many policies of closing beaches or warning other beaches with a network of lifeguards to keep people out of the water. As more and more tourists flock to the east coast and weather patterns change, humans and sharks are sharing the waters more than ever, increasing the chances of shark attacks.
To find out your specific odds of getting attacked by a shark in each coastal state, check out our personalized shark attack predictor here.
How Shark Attacks Have Changed
The death rate used to be much higher for shark attacks, but thanks to improved medical treatment and readily available emergency services, fatalities are increasingly rare. Even as more and more people take to the water and the overall number of shark attacks rises, the deaths continue to decline in the US.
Researchers also understand more about shark behavior. Sharks aren’t actually interested in attacking humans, but instead do so by mistake. They generally confuse surfers and other swimmers for their normal food sources, which is why shark attacks are usually classified as “hit and run” attacks where they inflict a single bite or slash wound before moving on upon realizing the victim isn’t a fish, turtle or seal as intended.
Shark Attacks Spike in September
Shark attacks peak in the US during September. This is because of an environmental combination of events and is changing thanks to climate change.
Sharks are migratory, so they seek out warm water. This means that they are coming closer to land from August through October, although attacks are becoming unusually common as early as July thanks to changes in weather patterns.
September is also a key time for herring and turtle breeding, adding more food supply to the water. Sharks follow their natural foods, so they tend to migrate to where fish and turtles are breeding for more readily available meals.
Climate change also means that warm summer conditions extend into September, with more people enjoying holidays during months that were traditionally off-peak. With increasing numbers of people in the water combined with more food and changing water conditions, there are simply more sharks around people, leading to more chances of attacks.
Been Attacked by a Shark? – What You Should Do
There are some things you can do to prevent getting attacked by a shark, like leaving the water when a shark is sighted and taking your cue from the fish or turtles. When they start swimming erratically, it’s probably time to get out of the water as they’ve sensed the shark already. Also, if you plan to swim, surf or dive, do so with other people as sharks tend to attack individuals more than groups.
But what should you do if you’re attacked? First up, defend yourself with whatever you have. Experts recommend that you avoid using your bare hands or feet if you can, and to concentrate your blows on the shark’s eyes or gills. Don’t “play dead” as it doesn’t work. Instead, be as aggressively defensive as you can be.
Finally, even if the injury seems small, get out of the water and seek immediate medical attention. Apply pressure and use tourniquets if necessary while you wait for emergency assistance.
So, what are your odds of getting attacked by a shark, and will you survive? Find out more from our comprehensive odds checker that shows you the chances of a shark attack in each coastal state. Maybe you shouldn’t bet on going for a beach holiday.