Shark attacks show new fall

The number of fatal and nonfatal shark attacks worldwide dropped in 2005, continuing a five-year trend, the director of the International Shark Attack File said today.

There were 58 total attacks in 2005, compared to 65 in 2004, while the number of fatal attacks dropped from seven to four, said George Burgess, director of the shark attack programme, which is housed at the University of Florida’s Museum of Natural History.

In contrast, there were 78 attacks in 2000, 11 of them fatal, the record year for attacks.

Surfers were the most frequent victims last year, accounting for 29 attacks, followed by 20 attacks on swimmers and waders and four attacks on divers.

“It appears that humans are doing a better job of avoiding being bitten, and on the rare occasion where they actually meet up with a shark, and are doing the right thing to save their lives,” Burgess said.

Burgess said swimmers need to fight back aggressively if a shark attacks, pointing to a surfer who survived a December 24 attack off the Oregon coast.

He saved his life with a well-timed punch to the shark’s nose. Punching the gills and poking the eyes also work.

Despite a worldwide decline, the number of attacks in the US rose slightly from 30 in 2004 to 38 in 2005, but well below the record of 52 in 2000.

Florida remained the US shark attack capital, where the number of attacks increased from 12 to 18, but stayed below the record of 37, Burgess said.

One of last year’s four fatalities occurred in Florida, two were in Australia and one on the island of Vanuatu.

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