Shark attack data for 2021 shows average bites, but higher fatalities
Jeremy Carr, 41, from Stuart, is a lifelong surfer with a degree in marine biology and a lover of all things water. During a dawn patrol session on August 21, 2021, at one of his favorite surf spots, Walton Rocks on Hutchinson Island in St. Lucie County, something happened that he would never have imagined.
His left foot was grabbed by a shark.
It happened in the course of the shore break as he started to row towards the lineout. He had just completed his sixth morning wave and was looking forward to more. But he knew the bite was deep and painful and bleeding profusely.
It wasn’t until later in the hospital that he realized it could change his life.
Sharks being sharks
Carr knew the shark bite was one in a million. However, data published by the International Shark Attack File (ISAF) Monday suggests the rate could be a little higher as Florida once again ranked No. 1 in unprovoked shark bites in 2021. The annual report released by the Gainesville-based organization found :
- 73: Unprovoked shark bites worldwide
- 47: Unprovoked Shark Bites in U.S. Waters (Ranked 1)
- 28: Unprovoked shark bites in Florida (ranked 1st)
- 17: Unprovoked Shark Bites in Volusia County (Ranked 1st)
- 51%: Surfing, activity bitten by a shark (ranked 1st)
- 11: Deaths worldwide, 9 unprovoked
ISAF researchers, which is a division of the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida, scour media for information on shark bites, include reports from field researchers and check with staff medical the veracity of the information. The ISAF team investigated 137 suspected shark-human interactions in 2021 to confirm the 73 unprovoked bites and an additional 39 provoked bites.
“Unprovoked attacks” are defined as incidents in which a living human being is bitten in the shark’s natural habitat without the shark’s human provocation, according to the report. “Provoked attacks” occur when a human initiates an interaction with a shark in some way, including spearfishers, divers who have harassed or attempted to touch the sharks, people who tried to feed, unhook or remove sharks from a fishing net.
Shark deaths are on the rise
Eleven deaths are alarming, compared to 10 in 2020, which was the highest since 2013. This is around double the annual average of five, but there were two in 2019 and one in 2018.
The majority of deaths again occurred in Australia, where three people lost their lives. New Caledonia (2) and New Zealand (1) mean six of the deaths were in the South Pacific Ocean, where great white sharks, the largest carnivorous shark, feed on seals. A death occurred in the United States in California on December 24 when an unconscious male surfer was pulled from the waves at Morro Bay. It was the 29th unprovoked shark bite and second shark bite death in the state in the past 10 years.
Kitesurfer Stephen Shafer, 38, of Stuart, was the latest victim of an unprovoked and fatal shark bite in Florida. He was kitesurfing on February 3, 2010, when he was accidentally bitten in the thigh by a suspected bull shark and died of severe blood loss.
Yet ISAF reports that the odds of being killed by a shark are less than 1 in 3.7 million.
“The increase in the number of deaths this year does not necessarily constitute a change in long-term trends. Death rates have been declining for decades, reflecting advances in beach safety, medical treatment and community awareness. public. While the incidence of fatal bites in 2021 was higher than is typical, we do not consider this cause for alarm. At this time, there is no evidence that the recent spike in fatalities is related to a natural phenomenon. Rather, it is the consequence of chance, a finding underscored by the fact that the number of unprovoked bites is consistent with recent five-year trends.”
When a bite is not a bite
TCPalm maintains a Treasure Coast Shark Attack Database dating back to 2004 and representing records of 45 shark bites. There were seven shark bites at beaches in the tri-county area in 2021 – three in Indian River, two in St. Lucia and two in Martin. However, the ISAF only lists two in Saint Lucia, one in Martin and none in Indian River.
“It is possible that there were recorded bites that our researchers could not confirm. They follow up on every reported bite with first responders and medics, and the ongoing pandemic has made that especially difficult as their efforts are focused on mitigating COVID-19,” wrote Jerald Pinson, a science writer. of the Florida Museum of Natural History emailed TCPalm.
COVID-19 has led to a slight decline in the number of shark bites over the past two years, ISAF researchers reported: “The incidence of bites in the United States and around the world has declined. The numbers for 2020 represent a more precipitous decline than expected based on a long-term trend analysis.The 2021 figures have returned to typical levels, which we attribute to the resumption of marine recreational activities following the shutdowns associated with the pandemic of the previous year.
Happy to see you again
Carr knew as soon as he was bitten that he would go back into the water. The shark bite was a temporary setback. He insisted on the word “temporary”.
“The second my orthopedic surgeon told me I could, I got back in the water and was still in a walking boot,” he said. “I have one Sharkbanz repellent strips for my ankle – like all my friends and everyone wears now since my bite – and went out for a few walks.”
It was early November, less than three months after his bite. It was a good day with a nice swell and Carr went to Stuart Beach and rode his longboard sitting, on his knees, and once lying down like a tombstone.
“I’m about 80-90% range of motion for my foot and ankle and my doctor says I should be back to 100%. I’m still on weekly physical therapy to break up the scar tissue, but I’ve been able to stand on my surfboard and I’ve been out seven or eight times now,” Carr said.
Still, he must have laughed the first time he returned to Walton Rocks in November.
“I had just rowed into the lineup and sat on my board. Suddenly, over my shoulder behind me, I saw a spinner shark jump high in the air several feet away and fall back into the water,” he said. “Everyone was laughing. It was like the sharks were saying to me, ‘Welcome back!’ “