Shark Attack Deaths Double in 2023

The University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File’s 2023 data has revealed that last year was not a good one for humans versus sharks. Of the 120 attacks investigated, 69 were considered “unprovoked.” Ten of these unprovoked attacks proved fatal. This doubles the number of 2022 fatalities. Note that four other fatal interactions were judged as provoked.

Fatalities higher but number of bites similar

The 10 fatalities are not only double last year, they are higher than the five-year annual global average of six unprovoked fatalities per year.

However, the number of unprovoked bites worldwide was in line with the five-year average. So why so many more deaths?

The researchers suggest two possible reasons: random annual variation, or the increasing number of white sharks near popular surf beaches, particularly in Australia.

Indeed, four of the 10 deaths occurred in Australia, and surfers experienced 42% of the 69 unprovoked attacks. The four deaths in Australia stand out because they came from only 15 attacks. The Australian Shark Incident Database, with data going back to 1791, records an average of one fatality per year in Australia, so this is a significant jump. Experts attributed three of the deaths to great white sharks and one to a bull shark.

However, it was the U.S. that led the world in total unprovoked attacks, with 35 of the worldwide total of 69. Fortunately, the 35 attacks led to only two deaths. This is in line with last year, when the U.S. again led the world with 41 attacks.

Attacks still very rare

Researchers say that the majority of attacks were “test bites,” with sharks confusing people (particularly surfers) for their prey. Even though sharks will usually leave after a test bite, the force of the attack can still result in death.

But the report is keen to highlight that shark bites are incredibly rare. “The total number of unprovoked shark bites worldwide remains extremely low,” the report states.

To put the numbers into context, humans kill approximately 100 million sharks per year, or roughly 6.4% to 7.9% of all shark species globally. An unsustainable figure.

Martin Walsh

Martin Walsh is a writer and editor for ExplorersWeb.

Martin has been writing about adventure travel and exploration for over five years.

Martin spent most of the last 15 years backpacking the world on a shoestring budget. Whether it was hitchhiking through Syria, getting strangled in Kyrgyzstan, touring Cambodia’s medical facilities with an exceedingly painful giant venomous centipede bite, chewing khat in Ethiopia, or narrowly avoiding various toilet-related accidents in rural China, so far, Martin has just about survived his decision making.

Based in Da Lat, Vietnam, Martin can be found in the jungle trying to avoid leeches while chasing monkeys.