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 Facts on Shark Accidents

Shark Accidents

Sharks are not harmless. They are wild animals like lions or crocodiles. Accidents happen, but not that often. To put shark accidents at the center of attention in discussions, branding them as "trademarks" of sharks, is criminal and reflects a distorted picture of these animals.
The frequency of shark accidents has been increasing since the beginning of this century. From 2000 to 2004 there were 57 to 78 shark accidents per year worldwide recorded by the ISAF (International Shark Attack File) which occurred during nonprofessional water activities. Out of these accidents 4 to 11 were fatal. In 2004 there were 7 fatal accidents.
Yet shark accidents must be seen in direct relationship to the number of water activities pursued by humans. Each year billions of people bathe, swim, dive or surf in the ocean.
Compared with about 15 billion bathing, swimming and surfing events each year, 50 to 100 shark accidents are extremely few. Still, the number of unrecorded cases is higher because third world countries rarely inform about such shark accidents for image reasons. On the other hand, the ISAF even registers the most harmless of scratches as shark attacks, even though these are in reality only "shark contacts".

Top 10

Illustration: The 10 most dangerous shark species.

Several meaningful and less meaningful comparisons to shark accidents

  • The likelihood of being involved in a shark accident is considerably smaller than winning the top prize in lottery.

  • Between 1959 and 2003 1,857 people were struck and killed by lightening alone in the coastal states of the USA. In the same time frame there were 740 shark accidents, 22 of which were fatal.

  • Probability of accidents in water sports activities (USA coastal states, 2000)

    Number of water sports activities264,156,728
    Deaths caused by drowning74
    Shark accidents23

    Deaths caused by shark accidents0
    Drowning1 case out of 3.5 millionen water sports activities
    Shark accidents1 case out of 11.5 millionen water sports activities
    Deaths caused by shark accidents0 out of 264.2 millionen water sports activities

  • Alone in the USA and Canada approximately 40 people are killed each year by pigs – six times more than by sharks worldwide.

  • In Australia the possibility of drowning is 20 times higher than being bitten by a shark.

  • In the USA the probability is 16 times higher of being hit by lightning than being bitten by a shark.

  • Around the world, considerably more people are killed by falling coconuts than are bitten by sharks.

  • Alone in New York people are bitten 10 times more each year by other people than worldwide by sharks.

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