Shark attacks around the world decreased for the third consecutive year in 2020 but unprovoked bites resulting in deaths numbered 10, more than double the average of four per year, making last year the deadliest for such attacks since 2013.
Six deaths occurred in Australia, three in the United States and one in St. Martin in the Caribbean, according to a report released by the International Shark File at the Florida Museum of Natural History. In the U.S., the deadly attacks were reported in California, Hawaii and Maine.
Globally, only two shark attack deaths were reported in 2019 and four the year before, according to figures.
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The number of non-fatal shark attacks in 2020 numbered 57 worldwide, well below the average of 80. The report said the figure is “extremely low” given the number of people who venture out into the ocean waters each year.
The U.S. led the world in unprovoked shark bites with 33, down from 41 the year before. Australia reported 18 bites, slightly higher than the five-year average of 16.
In the U.S., Florida accounted for nearly half of the confirmed shark bites. Most victims were either surfing or swimming when they were attacked. Others were snorkeling or horseplaying, the ISF said.
The ISF described unprovoked incidents as attacks in which “on a live human occurs in the shark’s natural habitat with no human provocation of the shark.”
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The decline in bites could be the result of COVID-19 measures that saw beaches closed in most of the world as governments struggled to get a grip on the virus.
“As we first reported in June, the observed drop in shark bite incidents may have been caused by the widespread quarantines, closed beaches and minimized vacation travel in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the report said.