CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

Community News Network

July 30, 2013

Yes, they're down there, but shark attacks are quite uncommon

With beach season in full swing, the question inevitably arises: What are the chances of getting attacked by a shark?

In a phrase: Extraordinarily low — though not nonexistent. It is higher in certain parts of the country (Florida tops the list) than in others, and in some places (off Cape Cod) legendary great whites are making a comeback that can be frightening to beachgoers. But is it really worth worrying about a shark strike or considering forgoing an ocean swim as an act of self-preservation?

Let's consider the numbers, courtesy of the International Shark Attack File at the Florida Museum of Natural History. Last year, 80 unprovoked shark strikes took place worldwide: Seven resulted in deaths, including one in California. Fifty-three strikes took place in U.S. waters, nearly half of them off Florida.

According to the file's analysis of 2000 data, beachgoers faced a 1-in-2-million chance of dying from drowning and other causes based on visits to East and West Coast beaches. By contrast, they faced a 1-in-11.5-million chance of being attacked by a shark, and less than a 1-in-264-million chance of dying from a shark bite, since just one person died that year in U.S. waters from an attack.

Put another way, more Americans were killed by collapsing sinkholes (16) than sharks (11) between 1990 and 2006, and more by tornadoes (125) than sharks (6) in Florida between 1985 and 2010. (And for all you "Sharknado" fans, those were shark-free tornadoes.)

"Tides and currents kill more people [at the beach] than sharks that kill people," said Gregory Skomal, a shark biologist with Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries.

But in some parts of the country, the number of shark spottings has risen in recent years. Last year, there were more than 20 confirmed shark sightings at Cape Cod beaches, in areas including its outer beaches and off the mainland, and a 50-year old man was bitten by a shark that scientists believe was a great white. (The swimmer, a Colorado native, was scarred but survived with limbs intact.)

Text Only
Community News Network
  • Why do wolves howl?

    Of all the myths that dog the wolf, none is more widely accepted than the idea that wolves howl at the moon. Images of wolves with their heads upturned, singing at the night sky, are as unquestioned as a goldfish's three-second memory or a dog's color-blindness (both also myths).

    April 18, 2014

  • Biggest student loan profits come from grad students

    This week, the Congressional Budget Office projected that the federal government would earn roughly $127 billion from student lending during the next 10 years.

    April 18, 2014

  • quake.jpg Pennsylvania won’t take action following Ohio ruling on quakes, fracking

    Pennsylvania officials plan no action despite new Ohio rules on drilling that affect a seismically active area near the state line.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • VIDEO: Boston bomb scare defendant appears in court

    The man accused of carrying a backpack containing a rice cooker near the Boston Marathon finish line on the anniversary of the bombings was arraigned Wednesday. He's being held on $100,000 bail.

    April 17, 2014

  • The case for separate beds

    The other night I slept on a twin bed in the guest room of the house I share with my husband and our two kids.
    It was the best night's sleep I've had in years.

    April 17, 2014

  • Raw oysters spike U.S. rise in bacterial infections, CDC reports

    Raw oysters, so good with hot sauce, increasingly can carry something even more unsettling to the stomach: A bacteria linked to vomiting, diarrhea and pain.

    April 17, 2014

  • To sleep well, you may need to adjust what you eat and when

    Sleep.  Oh, to sleep.  A good night's sleep is often a struggle for more than half of American adults.  And for occasional insomnia, there are good reasons to avoid using medications, whether over-the-counter or prescription.

    April 16, 2014

  • Low blood-sugar levels make for grousing spouses

    Husbands and wives reported being most unhappy with their spouses when their blood-sugar levels were lowest, usually at night, according to research released this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Missing a meal, dieting or just being hungry may be the reason, researchers said.

    April 16, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 12.51.22 PM.png VIDEO: Toddler climbs into vending machine

    A child is safe after climbing into and getting stuck inside a claw crane machine at a Lincoln, Neb., bowling alley Monday.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • portraitoflotte.jpg VIDEO: From infant to teen in four minutes

    Dutch filmmaker Frans Hofmeester’s time lapse video of his daughter, Lotte — created by filming her every week from her birth until she turned 14 — has become a viral sensation.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo