Shark attacks increased worldwide, according to an annual shark attack report released Monday. The trend reversed in Florida, which leads the U.S. in shark attacks, but recorded a decline in 2010. A recent shark study showing sharks are colorblind suggests that traditional black wet suits may increase the likelihood of a shark attack.
International shark attack statistics
The International Shark Attack File, an annual report compiled by the University of Florida, recorded 79 shark attacks in 2010, the most since 80 were documented in 1980. Six shark attacks were fatal. The latest total is a 25 percent increase from 63 shark attacks worldwide in 2009. The U.S. was the world leader in shark attacks with 36, considered an average year. Australia, a country famous for sharks, was runner up with 14. South Africa had eight, Vietnam and Egypt had six. In Egypt, four of five of the shark attacks happened in five days. The report attributed the Egypt attacks to an abnormally hot summer, a passing cargo ship that dumped dead sheep overboard and recreational divers feeding reef fishes and sharks.
Florida sees drop in shark attacks
Florida, normally the worldwide capital of shark attacks, showed a decline for the fourth straight year. Florida lead the U.S. in shark attacks with 13, but the 10-year Florida shark attack average is 23. Other states listed in the Shark Attack File include North Carolina (5), California (4), Hawaii (4) and South Carolina (4). Georgia, Maine, Oregon, Texas, Virginia and Washington had one shark attack. The recession and the BP oil spill, which reduced the number of tourists coming to Florida, may have been a factor in Florida’s relatively low number of shark attacks in 2010.
Preventing shark attacks
Surfers accounted for more than half of the shark attack cases in 2010. A recent study showing that sharks are colorblind suggests ways to protect them. Sharks see in shades of gray and wet suits and surfboards with a lower visual contrast may be less attractive. Most sharks, rather than going after a meal, are thought to be merely curious when they attack. The black wetsuits often worn by surfers offer a high contrast sharks will notice. Sharks have also shown an attraction to yellow, which has been nicknamed “yum, yum yellow by the U.S. Navy. Blue or green wet suits with a lower contrast could prevent shark attacks.