Shark Attacks: Florida Leads U.S., but Numbers Down. Are Terrorists and Shark Week to Thank?

​When it comes to shark attacks, Florida is tops. 
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In 2011, there were 11 unprovoked attacks in the state's waters, including one in Palm Beach. The next closest state was North Carolina, which had only four. Losers.

But the 11 attacks in Florida marks a huge drop over past years, according to the recently released International Shark Attack File from the University of Florida. Between 2001 and 2010, the state averaged 23.4 attacks per year. 

The sharp decline can be blamed, at least in part, on the terrorists. 

"Post-9/11 slow-downs in local economies and the recession have reduced the number of tourists and vacationing residents entering the sea," the researchers write.

Other factors that contributed to the decline include poor beach weather and overfishing. Another notable reason for the drop in attacks is stuff like Discovery Channel's Shark Week.

 "Media coverage of sharks has been high over the past decade with a plethora of television and print stories detailing the 'do's and don't's' involved in reducing shark-human interactions. It is possible that those engaged in marine aquatic recreation (and beach safety personnel charged with their oversight in many areas of the world) are doing a better job of avoiding high risk areas and times, thereby reducing chance meetings between sharks and humans."

Worldwide, there were 75 confirmed cases of unprovoked shark attacks, resulting in 12 fatalities. The U.S. led the way with a total of 29 attacks, followed by Australia and South Africa. 

Overall, it was a bizarre year for shark attacks. According to the researchers:

This year's higher rate no doubt is a statistical anomaly based in part on where the serious attacks occurred geographically. The unusually low proportion of attacks occurring in the United States, particularly in Florida, and a jump in attacks in non-U.S. locales not blessed with as highly-developed safety and medical personnel and facilities lead to an unusually high number of deaths. The fatality rate in the U.S. was zero, elsewhere it was nearly 25%.

The report shows that there have been 637 sharks attacks in Florida from 1882 through 2011. Sixty of those attacks were in Palm Beach, while 11 happened in Broward. To see a map of these attacks, click here.

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