Tourism to Blame For Rise in Shark Attack Deaths


Written by Stephen Messenger

Sharks have garnered a reputation as mean, cold-blooded aquatic killers, striking fear into the hearts of many would-be ocean goers — but it turns out that in an increasing number of shark attack cases, it may actually be humans that are to blame. Last year, 12 swimmers were killed in shark attacks and 34 more were injured, making it the most deadly period on record since 1993. Researchers say they know what’s behind the uptick, and it’s kind of our fault.

According to a study conducted by the University of Florida, while 2011 shark attack figures decreased in some of the most popular beach destinations in the world, they seem to be occurring more often where they were once rare — and tourist trends may be why. Increasingly popular seaside locales such as Kenya, Costa Rica, and New Caledonia each recorded one swimmer death; the Seychelles and French-administered Indian Ocean island of Réunion each experienced two.

For shark expert George Burgess, the location of these shark attacks signals an shift in tourism. From the National Geographic:

“I think many of these communities aren’t prepared structurally to worry about a shark attack until after it has happened,” Burgess said.

“Once the number of bodies going into the water reaches a sort of critical mass and they have a first attack, then they have to react.

“There’s no shame in having a shark attack,” he added. “It’s sort of a signal that you’ve arrived” as a tourist destination.

But the apparent correlation between tourist trends and shark attacks goes both ways, says Burgess. For the first time in recent years, the United States saw no shark-attack deaths in 2011.

“It seems to me that the declines we’ve seen in the U.S., and particularly in Florida—which is the engine that fires up U.S. shark-attack statistics—have coincided with the economic downturn,” says Burgess. “We may be seeing that some folks are less able to go to the sea for their vacations.”

This post was originally published by TreeHugger.


Related Stories:

Are Sharks Misunderstood?

War Declared on Sharks After Recent Attacks

Sharks And Other Predators Are Essential For Ocean Health


Photo from candiche via flickr


Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe5 years ago

Wow... Just looking at that picture gave me goose bumps!!

colleen p.
colleen p5 years ago

guess we need more swimming pools and stay out of the ocean!

Mark Donners
Mark Donner5 years ago

It seems the sharks are just getting fair payback for the millions of tons of plastic, styrofoam, chemicals, sewage, etc that humans are dumping into their home.

Carrie Anne Brown

interesting article, thanks for sharing :)

Shel G.
Shel G6 years ago

Aren't there two other factors at work - 1. fish populations (that is, the fish that are eaten by the sharks) are much lower, driving sharks to attack humans for food and 2. higher human population means that there are many, many more people in the water, meaning that more shark attacks are going to be inevitable?
I'm no expert, but both seem feasible explanations...

Chad A.
Chad A6 years ago

We need to get rid of the idea that we have a right to intrude on undeveloped ecosystems... sharks or no sharks.

Pamela K.
Pamela K6 years ago

Crowded beaches must seem like "fast food joints" to sharks!

KS Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Vicki P.
Victoria P6 years ago

all very interesting..thanks

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