Mt. Vernon Register-News

Features

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
Features
  • The Simpsons still going strong

    The groundbreaking animation first hit the air Dec. 17, 1989, but the family first appeared on television in "The Tracey Ullman Show" short "Good Night" on April 19, 1987.

    August 21, 2014

  • Pets.jpg Why do people look like their pets?

    As much as we might quibble over the virtues and vices of Canis domesticus, however, and over whether human nature is any better or worse than dog nature, even dog fanciers don't usually want to look like a dog.

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Freshman.jpg 8 crucial tips for college freshmen

    With school starting back up around the country, no one has a bigger deer-in-the-headlights look than college freshmen.

    August 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Can 6 seconds launch a career? A generation of Vine stars sure hopes so.

    A year ago, Shawn Mendes filmed himself singing a tentative acoustic cover of the Justin Bieber song "As Long as You Love Me" and put the results on Vine. He wasn't expecting much response. "I didn't really want anything to happen; I just kind of wanted to see what people would think," says Mendes, 16. "I posted that first Vine and woke up the next morning with 10,000 followers. That was pretty cool."

    August 14, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 3.09.32 PM.png VIDEO: Stars react to Robin Williams' death

    Prior to the premiere of “The Expendables 3” in Los Angeles, several movie stars shared their thoughts on the death of actor and comedian Robin Williams.

    August 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • job-fair.jpg Job market tilting toward workers

    The balance of power in the job market is shifting slowly toward employees from employers.

    August 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • ruralpoverty.jpg How rural poverty is changing: Your fate is increasingly tied to your town

    The town of Las Animas takes about five minutes to drive through when the one stoplight is blinking yellow, as usual. It's easy to miss but hard to escape. Just ask Frank Martinez.

    August 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • Dartmouth.jpg Break the college cartel

    Ask liberals why college is getting so expensive, and they'll probably tell you it's a case of government neglect. Ask conservatives the same question, and they'll tell you the opposite.

    August 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 3.43.11 PM.png Your brain helps you judge a face before you even see it

    In a new study published in The Journal of Neuroscience, researchers report that the amygdala — a part of the brain associated with decision making, memory and emotion — plays a part in telling us who to trust almost instantly.

    August 6, 2014 1 Photo

  • 20140805-AMX-PORK5.jpg 'Baconholics' undeterred by 30-year high pork prices

    With images of pigs and barbecued meats tattooed on his left calf, Brian Polak is doing what he can to cope with the highest price of bacon in three decades. The 41-year-old self-proclaimed "baconholic" now often cures his own at home to help reduce costs.

    August 5, 2014 1 Photo

Twitter Updates
Facebook
Stocks