About Shark Attacks

photo showing great white shark

Sharks Attack: When, Where and How


The film Jaws was released in 1975 and the Great White shark have never been seen in the same light ever since.  With the menacing composition that leads up to an attack and the huge “dummy” shark daringly launching at the researchers boat, the great white was successfully entrenched in the general public’s consciousness as a real menace.  The Great White was portrayed as a creature that was always looking for a meal, especially whilst swimmers happily swam around in the sea, oblivious to the hazard that was lurking around underneath them.  However, this is so far from the truth!  Sharks aren’t ferocious man eaters. Moreover, sharks are the top predators of the sea; therefore they help to keep a balance in nature by decreasing the overall reducing animal populations.

Top 10 Shark Attacks in the World

The Discover Channel shows the top ten Shark Attack stories in the world including one where a South African surfer is attacked by two great white sharks whilst riding the tip of a wave. Remarkably he lives to tell the tale and today still goes out and surfs!

Shark Attacks Worldwide

There are around round 70 to 100 sharks attacks that happen all over the world every year that result in approximately 5 to 15 deaths in total.  The information that we have about shark attacks in poorer countries is not that great, and in some locations shark attacks are kept quiet because of the concerns around poor publicity.  In the past, death incidents were a lot higher compared to what they are nowadays.  Although the availability of emergency medical services and enhanced treatment options has reduced the possibility of mortality, the number of shark attacks has gone up slightly throughout the decades.  This is because the number of people entering the waters has gone up significantly, although, there is no evidence to suggest that there are any changes in the rate of shark attacks when things are calculated per capita. 

The majority of shark attacks happen close to shore, usually near the coast of sandbanks or else in between sand ridges.  This is where all sharks feed and can potentially get stuck during low tides.  Places where there are steep drop-offs are more likely to be shark attack spots.  Sharks will gather there simply because all their food items flock to such locations. 

Learn more about shark attack incidents.

Types of Attacks

There are three main types of senseless shark attacks: hit and run, bump and bite and sneak attacks.  Hit and run is the most popular kind of attack and generally happens in surf zones with surfers and swimmers as common victims. The target rarely sees its assailant, plus the shark doesn’t reappear after it has inflicted one bite or a lacerated wound. In the majority of cases, these are possibly incidences of a false identity that generally happens during bad water conditions when visibility isn’t that great and the physical environment is harsh – for instance, where there are breaking surfs and really powerful currents. A shark that is feeding in such habitats has to make decisions quickly and move rapidly to catch its food.  When you consider these harsh physical circumstances alongside aggravating human activities and appearances through water hobbies (shiny jewellery, splashing, distinct coloured swimwear, different tanning, particularly including the soles of your foot), it’s not surprising that a shark may sometimes mistake a human being as its usual prey. It is believed that immediately after biting a human being, a shark soon understands that the human is actually a foreign entity, or else that it’s far too big, and instantly recognises the casualty and doesn’t come back. A few of these attack incidences may also be connected to social behaviours that are not related to feeding, like a domination characteristic that you will see in plenty of land creatures. Wounds to most "hit and run" casualties are generally limited to tiny rips, usually on the human leg, mostly underneath the knee cap, and they are rarely fatal.

A sneak and bump and bite attack is much less common, and usually end in bigger injuries as well as the most deaths. Such attacks typically involve a diver or a swimmer in deeper waters, although it happens close to shallow waters in certain places in the world. A bump and bite attack is illustrated by a shark circling the victim first and then bumping them prior to attacking. "Sneak" attacks are different in that the shark strikes without any prior warning. In both instances, a repeated attack isn’t rare and numerous or persistent bites are actually the standard. Any injury that is suffered in the course of this kind of attack is generally very serious and often results in a fatal death. It is believed that such attacks are an outcome of aggressive and feeding behaviours instead of being a case of a wrong identity. The majority of attacks that involve sea water catastrophes – for example – ship and plane crashes are likely to involve a sneak or “bump and bite" attacks.

photo showing great white shark

Photograph of a Grey White Shark taken in Guadalupe Iceland

Virtually all sharks that are approximately two meters long or more, are potentially a threat to humans beings. Nevertheless, there are three types of shark that have repeatedly been accused as the key aggressors of humans: the Great White, the Bull shark and the Tiger shark.  Each one is internationally distributed, grows to a very big size, and eats huge prey matters like sea turtles, sea mammals, and other fish as a normal part of their diet. It is these sharks that are possibly accountable for a big proportion of sneak and bump and bite attacks. Other shark creatures that attack include a Galapagos, Shortfin Mako, the great Hammerhead, the Oceanic Whitetip, and specific reef sharks like the Caribbean reef have also been connected to these kinds of attacks, although not much is known about these felonious parties when it comes to hit and run incidences as these sharks have rarely been monitored.  However, it is very safe to presume that a big group of these creatures may have been involved. Proof from Florida, where there has been around 20-30 attacks of such kinds every year, indicates that the Blacknose and Blacktip sharks are usually the main perpetrators in these regions.

Learn more about Great White and other sharks here

The International Shark Attack File (ISAF) International Shark Attack Review

In 2003, the ISAF researched into 100 apparent instances where there were interactions between a shark and a human being from all over the world. Fifty five of the incidents were confirmed as unprovoked shark attacks on humans. An unprovoked attack is classified as an incident where a shark attacks a human in a natural environment without a human provoking the actual shark itself.  Incidents that involve a shark and a diver in a public location or inside a research holding-pen, a shark-imposed injury to humans that are dead already (mostly victims who are drowning), attacks that occur on a boat, as well as  incidents that are provoked inside or outside of the sea aren’t viewed as an  unprovoked attack. 

A provoked attack typically happens when a human instigates physical contact with a shark, for instance, a diver gets bitten after it grabs a shark or else a fisherman is bit whilst he removes a shark from his fish net. The 45 occurrences that were not rendered as an unprovoked attack included: 18 attacks that were classed as provoked, nine incidences of a shark biting a sea vessel, four instances rejected as not being attacks, one rummage, one air and sea catastrophe, and 12 other incidence where there was not sufficient data available to establish if a shark attack was actually involved.

The annual total of the 55 attacks that were unprovoked was less compared to the sixty three unprovoked attacks documented in 2002, 68 documented in 2001, and 79 documented in 2000.   In general, the highest number of attacks happened during the 1990's – 514 in total, and there has been a slow upward trend since then.

More on shark attacks statistics

Shark Attack Case Studies

As far back as 1981, a gentleman called Lewis Boren was attacked by a shark along the Red Triangle, a coastline of California.  He went surfing with his friends, but never returned.  The following morning, his surfboard was discovered with a huge chunk missing and it looked like a shark had bitten into it.  This missing piece and his body were discovered approximately one mile away from the actual attack spot later on.  His body had an identical mark and it revealed that shark actually killed him with one clear bite. 

In 2008, David Martin accompanied his triathlon group on Solona beach in California whilst they swam past some surfers. A huge shark, believed to be a Great White, attacked him from underneath and hurled him outside of the sea with his legs inside of the mouth of the shark.  He yelled shark prior to being taken under water again.  Eventually, Martin was saved by two other swimmers - who after listening to his scream, went and swam back to get him out of the water.  Sadly, he was announced as being dead and the bite marks revealed that he was attacked by a great white that was around 12 to 17 feet. Apparently, the shark believed that he was a seal.

A more recent attack happened in the waters in Florida in 2012.  A female from Germany was bitten by a Great White on her inner thigh all the way to her bone.  The incident happened whilst she was relaxing inside water that was waist deep in Humiston Park.  This was not a fatal injury and the women has had corrective surgery ever since.

Putting Things into Perspective

Even though shark attacks have happened in the past, it is worth putting things into perspective.  The following data should help you to do this:

In the U.S, you are 30 times more likely to get hit by lightning than dying of a shark attack.

A bee, snake and wasp tend to kill more people each year than sharks.

Flooding, heart failure, mishaps on the beach that result in a spinal cord injury, sunstroke, scratches from walking on sea shells, extreme thirst, jellyfish stings, plus road traffic accidents driving to or from the beach are much more common than shark attacks.

In 1990 to 2009 there were approximately 15000 serious bike accidents in comparison to 14 shark related deaths.

In 1990 to 2006, sixteen people sadly died because of sand hole collapses, whilst only 11 deaths were related to shark attacks.


The actual likelihood of a shark attack incident happening is very rare!  Taking into consideration that thousands of individuals encounter sharks every year whilst they swim, surf or go on boat trips, the actual percentage of attacks is insignificant.  For instance, there have only been 75 total shark attacks (unprovoked) that have been confirmed in 2011. 

Shark Cage Diving

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