The results of the Yearly Worldwide Shark Attack Summary are in. According to the study from the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida, the frequency of shark attacks had a sharp and sudden decrease this past year.
In 2018, according to the survey, there were only 66 unprovoked shark attacks around the world. For the last five years, the average has been 84 attacks.
However, the organization is quick to note that this significant downturn does not necessarily mean humanity’s relationship with sharks is becoming stronger. “Annual fluctuations in shark-human interactions are to be expected,” the survey said. “Year-to-year variability in oceanographic, socio-economic and meteorological conditions significantly influences the local abundance of sharks and humans in the water and, therefore, the odds of encountering one another.”
But of the entire world, the United States ranked highest for the most shark attacks last year. Of the 66 unprovoked attacks almost half recorded last year happened in the U.S. (a total of 32), although only one resulted in a fatality.
In 2017, the U.S. accounted for 60 percent of all unprovoked attacks in the world, with a total of 53 incidents. For 2018, attacks in the U.S. made up 48 percent of the world total. Much of that decrease came from Florida, where unprovoked shark attacks decreased from 31 attacks in 2017 to 16 last year, according to the report.
The country with the next highest number of attacks was Australia with 20, one of which was fatal. Every other country on the list, including Brazil, Egypt, and Thailand, had three or fewer shark attacks last year.
“Statistically, this is an anomaly. It begs the question of whether we’re seeing fewer bites because there are fewer sharks—that would be the ‘glass-half-empty’ interpretation,” Gavin Naylor, director of the museum’s shark research program, said in a statement. “Or it could be that the general public is heeding the advice of beach safety officials. My hope is that the lower numbers are a consequence of people becoming more aware and accepting of the fact that they’re sharing the ocean with these animals.”
In addition to the 66 unprovoked attacks around the world, there were 34 times when the attacks were provoked. According to the report, provoked attacks “occur when a human initiates interaction with a shark in some way.”
Five people died from shark attacks, one of which was provoked, in the past year, which fits the global average of about six fatalities per year.
If you ever find yourself in a shark attack — which is a one in 11.5 million chance, according to data from the International Shark Attack File — just remember to use this simple self defense move to help make your escape.