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March 2018    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 44, No. 3   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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If Attacked, You’re Not Just a Shark Attack Statistic!

from the March, 2018 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

The death of a scuba diver by shark bite at Cocos Island in December has renewed divers' interest in shark attacks worldwide. For 2017, the Florida Museum of Natural History reports 88 confirmed unprovoked shark attacks, 30 provoked attacks and 18 cases of small boats being attacked by sharks. Only five of the unprovoked attacks proved fatal worldwide; none occurred in the U.S.

However, attacks in U.S. waters were more common than anywhere, with 31 in Florida and 10 in South Carolina, twice as many in South Carolina as in the previous year.

The Shark Research Committee, whose goal was to assist Leonard P. Schultz of the Smithsonian Institution, reports that since the year 2000, there have been 103 shark attacks reported along North America's Pacific Coast. We divers aren't immune -- 6 attacks -- but surfers have the greatest risk (62), followed by kayaking (17), swimming (8), paddle-boarding (6) and one each for outrigger paddling, windsurfing, fishing, and boogie boarding.

If you are unlucky enough to be bitten by a shark, statistical categories matter little, as British businessman Andrew Phipps-Newman (45) found out in the Galapagos Islands in early February.

Phipps-Newman was snorkeling with sea lions off Santa Fe when a supposed (12 foot/4m) Galapagos shark grabbed his foot. Terrified, he managed to fight off the predator by hitting it repeatedly with his GoPro set-up before he lost it in the meleé. He suffered three severed ligaments in his foot and a broken bone.

He was helped ashore, picked up by a dinghy, and attended by a doctor (who happened to be a member of his group) while enduring a three-hour trip to the hospital in San Cristobal. Such attacks are incredibly rare in Ecuador with just eight reported in more than 60 years.

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