Good news for beachgoers: The number of shark attacks is decreasing

Doyle Rice, USA TODAY

Shark attacks were down again both in the U.S. and worldwide in 2019, according to a report released Tuesday.

Last year, 64 unprovoked shark attacks were reported around the globe, down from the average of 82, according to the University of Florida's International Shark Attack File.

As for deaths, sharks killed two people in 2019, which is below the average of four. 

Last year marked the second straight year shark attacks were well below average: There were only 62 attacks worldwide in 2018.

“We’ve had back-to-back years with unusual decreases in shark attacks, and we know that people aren’t spending less time in the water,” said Gavin Naylor, director of the Florida Museum of Natural History's shark research program, in a statement. “This suggests sharks aren’t frequenting the same places they have in the past. But it’s too early to say this is the new normal.”

Researchers at the International Shark Attack File track “unprovoked" attacks, which are defined as incidents in which an attack on a live human occurs in the shark’s natural habitat with no human provocation.

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Where do shark attacks happen?

One of the two fatal unprovoked shark attacks was near Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean, and the other was in the Bahamas.

In the U.S., on average, one person dies each year from a shark attack.

Humans kill about 100 million sharks and rays each year. Most are killed by commercial fishermen for their fins and flesh.

As has been the case for decades, the U.S. led the world in shark attacks with 41. But that was still well below the average of 62 U.S. bites. 

Australia was second with 11.

The majority of the U.S. attacks were in Florida, where 21 bites were recorded. The Sunshine State alone accounts for 33% of the global total, according to the Shark Attack File. 

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Following recent trends, surfers and those participating in board sports accounted for most incidents (53% of the total). This group spends a large amount of time in the surf zone, an area commonly frequented by sharks, and may unintentionally attract sharks by splashing, paddling and “wiping out.”  

Summertime shark mania probably started with the book and movie "Jaws" in the 1970s. Specifically, the national fear of shark attacks got its start in 1975 after the release of the summer movie blockbuster that unleashed the primal fear of being eaten alive while swimming.

How rare are shark attack deaths?

The odds of being killed by a shark in the U.S. are 3,748,067 to 1.

Bees, wasps, dogs and snakes are responsible for far more deaths each year in the U.S. than sharks, the Shark Attack File said.

Most U.S. deaths from animals are not actually because of wild critters such as mountain lions, wolves, bears or sharks but are a result of deadly encounters with farm animals, insect stings or dog attacks, according to a study in February 2018.

In fact, at the beach, you're about as likely to die from falling in a hole in the sand as being killed by a shark. From 1990 to 2006, 16 people in the USA died after falling in a hole at the beach, compared with 11 shark attack deaths. 

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Shark attacks 2019: Number of bites, deaths has dropped in US, world